Merry Christmas Eve to all who celebrate…Fun evening out for Tom’s birthday…

Tom wore this giant sombrero while the staff sang “Happy Birthday.” It was funny!

Celebrating Tom’s birthday last night was fun at Lindo Michoacan, a Mexican restaurant in Henderson, about 25 minutes from our condo. The drive was pleasant when we could see not only plenty of Christmas lights but also high up where the condo building is located, and we could also see the lights of the Las Vegas Strip. It’s another world here.

Sure, there’s traffic, lots of stop lights, and careless drivers, but we stayed in good spirits as we looked forward to dinner and seeing my son Richard, who continues to be busy working up to Christmas. He is the #1 agent in the large company in Henderson and Las Vegas, and we’re proud of his continued accomplishments in the real estate business.

The waitstaff sang “Happy Birthday” to Tom.

It was fun catching up, and the busy restaurant’s festive atmosphere was palpable. We sat in a booth in the center of the main part of the restaurant and were surprised by the number of birthdays celebrated on December 23rd, so close to Christmas.

I informed the hostess that it was Tom’s birthday. After we ate our dinner, a group of waitstaff members stopped by, placed the giant sombrero on Tom’s head, and sang the birthday song. You can tell by today’s main photo that he felt a little awkward wearing the hat. I could tell he was more concerned about wearing a hat that had been on other people’s heads than the attention he was getting.

Tom’s taco salad with sirloin steak instead of ground meat or chicken.

As a generally outgoing guy, Tom doesn’t care for hoopla in his direction. But he’s always a good sport and goes along with it. The waiter brought him a Mexican dessert, which I dared to taste. Last night, I tasted only two tortilla chips and a bit of the refried beans and salsa dip that came with the baskets of chips.

Also, for the first time in over two months last night, I ordered a glass of Pinot Grigio, sipping on only one glass throughout the evening. It tasted so good that when we went to the little store again to buy bread for Tom’s morning toast, we purchased a small box of Cabernet Sauvignon. No, it wasn’t a fine wine, but at least with a boxed wine, it will keep longer than an opened bottle.

Richard’s chicken fajitas looked delicious.

That way, I can have one glass some nights, and it should last for a few weeks when the small box contains ten glasses of red wine. I won’t be having a glass every night and have decided I won’t drink more than one per evening.

When we ventured out to walk to the little store, we were surprised by how cold it was: 43F, 6C. It’s primarily cold in Nevada during winter and doesn’t start to warm until March. And, then, from there, are some of the hottest temperatures in the US.

On July 10, 2021, the record high was 117F, 47.7C. That’s hot! The humidity is low here in the desert, but even so, that is unbearable. We prefer to come here when it’s cool, and we’re both enjoying it here now and wearing jackets or zippered sweatshirts when we go out. We got by with long-sleeved shirts. Last night, it was a little warmer.

My Cobb salad was good, but I prefer small bites of chicken tossed with the ingredients.

The conversation at dinner was lively and animated, and we enjoyed the time together. By 9:00 pm, we were back at the condo. We streamed a comedy show, and I nodded off on the sofa, finally heading to bed around 10:30 for another good night’s sleep.

So, here we are, dear reader, on Christmas Eve. For those who celebrate, we wish you a very Merry Christmas with hope and love in your hearts and minds.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, December 24, 2013:

On our way to the Marloth Park Farmers Market, a few blocks from our home. We count the days until they return to our garden. For more photos, please click here.

Happy birthday to my dear husband, lover, and travel companion…

This photo was taken on “White Night” while on Azamara Journey as we sailed through the Norway fiords in August, only four months ago.

Today is Tom’s birthday. Being so close to Christmas has always been tricky, but I’ve always tried to make it a special day for him. Today will be no different when we celebrate with Richard and head to Lindo Michoacan, Tom’s favorite Mexican restaurant in Henderson, Nevada.

We’ve tried other Mexican restaurants when we’ve been in the US, but Tom only likes frothy blended Margaritas, and this particular restaurant makes a great Margarite to his liking. Plus, he enjoys their taco salads, the only item he orders in a Mexican restaurant. Who am I to say this when I also love taco salads, minus the corn tortilla shell or chips on the side?

It will be our first dinner out since we arrived eight days ago since we’ve been enjoying the vast array of groceries we’ve been able to buy here, a far cry from what was available in Ecuador. We hadn’t cooked our meals (other than in Ecuador) since the end of July when we left Florida for our two cruises.

In a while, we’ll head downstairs to the Village, which I recently discovered is called the MonteLago Village, to get a few items from the Seasons Grocery, only a few steps from the stairway. We are staying in for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, making special meals each occasion.

Tomorrow night, we’ll have bacon-wrapped filet mignon and lobster tails. On Thursday, we returned to Costco for a few items we needed. While there, we spotted a huge pack of 6 oz lobster tails and didn’t hesitate to buy them. We’ll each have one or two of the tails with our steaks for a fun dinner on Christmas Eve, leaving plenty for future meals.

Tom is not a massive fan of some seafood, but he likes lobster and crab but not shrimp. For many years, we enjoyed steak and lobster on Christmas Eve when, in our old lives, the kids and grandkids did their own thing that night. Instead, we’d see them on Christmas Day. Since we’ve been traveling, we haven’t spent Christmas in Minnesota since we’ve often been too far away.

Plus, we’ve avoided traveling during the holidays when flights are often canceled or delayed, and the commotion at the airport is intolerable. We’ve traveled close to the 4th of July, Memorial Day, and Labor Day, which aren’t as chaotic as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I have a dumb gift for Tom for his birthday. Since we have no room for anything of additional weight in our bags, I purchased four “Space Bags’ for his luggage. Since we’ve been traveling, he’s liked using those oversized bags that he can squeeze out the air to condense the size of his clothes in the suitcase. Then, when we don’t unpack at some locations, he reaches into the bags to get out his sorted clothes.

Doing this never appealed to me, but he prefers the bags to my neatly stacked clothes. Buying him this gift is like a husband buying his wife an iron for her birthday. Tom, the practical guy he is, will appreciate this impersonal gift, which I will give him shortly. There is no wrapping paper or bow, nor is there a card. So he’ll open the Amazon package, including a bottle of Tylenol I purchased simultaneously.

We gave up giving each other gifts at Christmas, anniversaries, and birthdays when we began traveling. It made no sense to add to the weight of our luggage. Honestly, I haven’t missed receiving gifts. In a way, it has caused us both to focus more on the meaning of the occasion than the significance of giving and receiving gifts from one another.

We even stopped giving gifts to our adult children and asked them to stop buying for us. We send gifts to the grandkids, but that’s it. That has worked well for us. I suppose it would be different if we had a home, a Christmas tree, and all that goes with celebrating the holiday season. I doubt we’ll ever go back to that means of celebrating.

That’s it for today, folks. I will wrap this up (no pun intended) and give Tom his Amazon gift, and then we’ll head out to the Village.

P.S. When I handed Tom the Amazon box, explaining it was his birthday gift, he said, “I hope it isn’t something that has to fit in my suitcase.” I chuckled to myself. He loves it.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, December 23, 2013:

In our travels, we’ve found that two heads are better than one. These rhinos were so close to us that we didn’t require Zoom to take this photo. For more, please click here.

Merry Christmas Eve…Last night, we never took a single photo during a fabulous evening in the bush….

After spending an hour looking for a suitable Christmas Eve graphic, I gave up. I decided to post this favorite lion photo we took in 2013 in the Maasai Mara, Kenya, truly indicative of the life we live now with lions in Marloth Park and at our doorstep, Kruger National Park. For that post, please click here.

It’s gotten to a point where one can no longer easily find appropriate graphics without paying or signing up for some arbitrary “free trial.” After trying to find a Christmas world graphic suitable for our post, I gave up after a valiant effort, and I decided to post our photo to avoid paying royalties, choosing the above lion shot we’ve shared many times in the past. Sorry for the repetition.

It’s nearly impossible not to be repetitive when we’ve been posting daily for over ten years. This is our 11th Christmas since we left the US in 2012, the 4th Christmas we’ve spent in Marloth Park. Last night, at Jabula, celebrating Tom’s 70th birthday, amid endless toasts and rounds of merriment at the packed bar with every seat taken, with dear friends Louise and Danie at our side with Dawn and Leon joining it, it couldn’t have been more fun.

Being so close to Christmas, Tom’s birthday was somewhat of an inconvenience in our old lives. We’d often make elaborate plans to acknowledge his birthday, but with Christmas Eve the next day, we were always on a mad dash to roll into the holiday from the birthday celebrations.

Oddly, in our old neighborhood, every other house of five on the peninsula celebrated its birthday on the exact same date, December 23. It was our dear friend Chip, the furthest away, Doug in the middle, and Tom. How odd was that? We’d often celebrate together when we could. We are still in touch with our old neighbors, missing the merriment and celebrations over the Christmas season and also throughout the year.

We lost dear Chip a few months before we left in 2012 to begin our travels, and I had the honor of speaking at his memorial service only months before we were ready to depart. It was a sorrowful time. And now, looking back over the Christmases, the fun with our kids, grandkids, friends, and neighbors, it was an extraordinary time.

But, no, we have no regrets and don’t think of those times with sadness and sorrow. Instead, like last night, celebrating Tom’s 70th birthday, we were reminded of how fortunate we were then and…how fortunate we are now. Different? Yes. But, wonderful nonetheless.

While we sat at the bar, all of us talking at once and yet hearing every word spoken, I turned to Louise at my left and said, “There is nowhere in the world where we’d have made so many friends and enjoyed such camaraderie and lively conversation at a bar.” Although she and Danie are native South Africans, they are well aware of the magic of all these friendships and their special meanings.

Then, adding the cozy element of being in Marloth Park, a true Paradise on earth, and the commonality we all share with our love of nature and wildlife, it’s a combination unlike any to be found anywhere in the world.

No, we don’t have a Christmas tree or other decorations or the countless gifts under the tree. No, we don’t send out Christmas cards or even Christmas letters. After all, our daily posts contain everything we could possibly have to say about our lives. We leave no stone unturned. You, our treasured readers, know everything about us, almost down to our shoe sizes!

People often ask how we feel about being vulnerable and open about our flaws, foibles, and never-ending errors and mishaps. Yes, that includes some whining and complaining, some health issues, and some unavoidable repetition in both words and photos. What would be the point of our posts being fictional instead of the often harsh reality? We are fine with bearing our true feeling, thoughts and dreams.

As we wrap up today’s post, we want to wish every one of our friends/readers and their families, who celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, and many more (found on this site) a meaningful and memorable holiday season.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, December 24, 2021:

Christmas graphic we posted last year. For the story, please click here.

Happy birthday to my dear husband Tom…German Chocolate Cake making day!!!…

Happy birthday, Lover! That’s my guy, always with a heartwarming grin on his face, even in the pelting rain. Gosh, we love this life!  I took this photo in the rain when we found an overhang on the sidewalk on George St. in Sydney in January 2016.

It’s 9:30 am, on Tom’s 69th birthday, December 23, 2021. It’s hot and humid, and I am taking a break in the air-conditioned bedroom while #2 of 3 layers of his German Chocolate birthday cake is baking in the oven. I can only bake one layer at a time since the oven is too small for two at a time. The kitchen is like a sweat lodge in the Kalahari desert, and I needed a reprieve to cool down.

I set the timer on my Fitbit to 35 minutes, the time it takes to bake a layer. The first layer popped out of the pan perfectly, and I’m hoping the same happens for the remaining two layers. All ingredients come in metric measurements while the recipe is in imperial measurements. I always struggle a little with the conversions, especially when some of my measuring cups and spoons are also metric. After all, we’re living in another country. It’s not like the US here.

It’s the only material gift I could give him on his special day. I didn’t even buy him a card. The only birthday card he’ll get today is one left behind for him by dear friends Kathy and Don (now in Hawaii), which he opened this morning with more of that sh_ _ eating grin on his face. I couldn’t help but smile.

Today will be like any other day. Once I’ve frosted the gooey pecan coconut frosting on the three layers of cake, I’ll take a reprieve once again and finish today’s post. If the cake looks reasonably acceptable, I will take a photo and post it here today. If he says it tastes good after he eats a piece when we return from dinner and drinks at Jabula tonight, I’ll post the recipe tomorrow.

Don’t laugh! It’s not perfect! When I frosted the first bottom layer, it appeared I didn’t have enough frosting for all three layers. So I went a little light on the first one, resulting in none showing in this photo. As it turned out, I did have enough frosting and ended up putting too much on the top layer. My bad. I am sure it will taste good and Tom won’t mind a bit.

Oh, I could so easily go into accolades about my husband on his special day, but most of you, especially our long-term readers, have heard it all before. Long ago, when reading another world traveler’s blog, I read a comment from one of their readers who whined about how she was always saying nice things about her husband, who has since passed away. I’m sure she has no regrets about the kind words she wrote about him.

Then again, it certainly takes unique qualities in individuals and couples to travel the world for years. It’s not an easy way of life, regardless of how exciting and romantic it may sound. My contributions to this union are unceremonious. I don’t complain, fight, stay cheerful, take photos, and do these posts daily.

Tom, on the other hand, has a multitude of fantastic qualities. (OK. Humor me. I couldn’t resist). At the top of the list is his uncanny ability to remain optimistic in the most challenging times and his unwavering commitment to consistently contributing to our day-to-day lives. Next is his magical way of making me feel special every day through loving gestures, compliments, and his playful nature (dare I say sexy?). What more could a girl ask?

Much to my disdain, I sometimes don’t feel well or suffer from some unanticipated malady, let alone open-heart surgery almost three years ago. His contribution, care, and loving nature remain steady, if not escalating, during these difficult times. He never complains during those periods or reminds me of them later. Sure, from time to time, he fluffs his feathers, but I simply let it pass without issue, and moments later, he’s cheerful again, teasing me, smiling and laughing.

The three layers of cake are cooling on the kitchen counter. They all came out of the pan nicely. Now it’s time to make the coconut pecan frosting on the stovetop and then frost the layers. Hopefully, in this heat and humidity, it will turn out well. If not beautiful, I am convinced it will taste good.

Yes, today is a special day for Tom, and it’s also a special day for me. What more can I do to show him how much I love and appreciate him? I am sure I’ll think of something.

Photo from one year ago today, December 23, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #273. In this photo, taken at Aamazing River View in November 2018, on Saturday night with friends, I cut off the top of his “tall” fluffy hair but I like this photo of my guy, Tom. For more photos, please click here.

Day #274 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Merry Christmas Eve…Scroll down for our Christmas poem from the past…

Today’s poem I wrote years ago is from a post on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2013, while in Marloth Park, South Africa. For more details, please click here.

The above Christmas graphic is to express our wishes to family, friends, and readers worldwide. In reviewing the countries mentioned in the above image, we haven’t visited four of these 15 countries: China, Israel, the Philippines, and Norway. We still have plenty of the world yet to see!

Tom was delighted with the endless stream of birthday wishes that came his way via Facebook and email. Many came through our site and my email as well. He appreciated every single kind and generous message. Thank you!

Tom and I never say “Merry Christmas” until the actual “eve” begins on December 24th, which is several hours from now. In our old lives, we were often still reeling from the festivities from his birthday the previous day. This year? None of the “reeling.” Instead, we wait with bated breath for the next 19 days until we know we can depart India and begin the long journey to South Africa.

There’s nothing that could bespeak the holiday season for us at this time. We have nothing planned for today or tomorrow. Instead, we’ll focus on our feelings of gratitude for that which we do have in our presence and afar at this time; the love and friendship for one another, our family, friends, and readers; safety from Covid-19; and of course, the fingers-crossed prospect of leaving India before too long.

As more and more news comes out of South Africa with a rapid increase in new cases, especially from a new strain, we wait with bated breath, hoping the borders stay open for the next 19 days and nights, allowing us ample time to get out of here.

Today, the air-con in the building isn’t working, but it is being worked on, based on a call we received from the front desk. It could take two to three hours until it’s working again. It’s stifling in our room and getting hotter by the minute. I just returned from a fast walk in the corridors, dodging guests talking loudly on phones, without masks, and I’m sweating up a storm.

Midway through my walk, I stopped to send an email to the front desk. They, too, are upset about guests not wearing masks and want us to report any discrepancies we observe, if we don’t mind. They don’t want to get sick, nor do the loyal staff who have left their homes, their families for months at a time to work and live here. It’s unfair for everyone.

Ah, anyway, we’re trying to get into the holiday spirit, and the best way we can do this is through memories of Christmases past. In reviewing which photos we’d post today for Christmas Eve, I stumbled across this poem I wrote in our old lives a few nights before the family arrived for Christmas Day dinner.

I decided to share this poem again today, seven years later. It seems all the more appropriate based on the circumstances everyone is experiencing all over the world. Here you go:


Elbow to elbow, we’re all gathered here

Family and friends, sharing holiday cheer

Our plates, all filled with tasty delights

Our appetites whetted, to take the first bites

The candlelight glowing on each smiling face

As we look to each other, wondering who will say “grace”

The words are well-spoken, as hands are held tight

The meaning, so special, this holiday night

Elbow to elbow, we’re all gathered here

At this table, we’ve gathered for many a’ years

We’ve enjoyed fancy dinners, some romantic for two

And squeezed in so many, as our family grew

And now, here are our children, adult, and attached

In love with their partners and very well matched

With room at the table, their children are here

As we teach them the meaning of holiday cheer

A few are still missing, there always will be

Their gifts in the mail, not under the tree

We’re feeling their love, across all the miles

Holding back tears, remembering their smiles

Elbow to elbow, we’re all gathered here

Putting aside life’s trouble and fear

The food and the merriment, the taste of good wine

The joy and the happiness, knowing they’re mine.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

We’ll be back with more tomorrow on Christmas Day.

Photo from one year ago today, December 24, 2019:

No photos were posted on Christmas Eve last year other than the above. Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to our family, friends/readers all over the world. For more on this post, please click here.

Merry Christmas, everyone!…Christmas Eve festivities…”We’ll figure it out”…

A band from Minnesota played country music at the Apache Junction VFW’s
Christmas Eve festivities.

Today’s photos were from yesterday afternoon while we attended the festivities at a local Apache Junction VFW from 1:00 to 4:00 pm. Later in the day, we gathered at Colleen’s house for snacks and more entertaining and lively conversations. Four neighbors stopped by to join the six of us.

Although it never snowed anywhere we’ve traveled over the world the past seven years, except while we were in Antarctica almost two years ago, somehow being in the US during Christmas feels a bit unfamiliar without snow.

Tom, another year older but still loads of fun!

With its usually warm and mild winters, Arizona doesn’t quite remind us of Christmastime, even with the lights and decorations. Today, it’s raining. Then again, during these past travel years, we haven’t created the ambiance we so well remember of Christmases long ago. 

We have no decorations, no tree, no gifts, no tins of home-baked Christmas cookies. Nor did we send out Christmas cards or gifts other than to our grandchildren.

But, somehow, the Christmas spirit fills our hearts, and we think of our loved ones far away and may, at times, miss the merriment we so embraced in our old lives.

Tom and brother-in-law Gene. Note Tom: always using his hands when he tells a story. We didn’t include photos of other family members when they preferred not to publish their photos online. No problem.

We’d be foolhardy to say we don’t miss certain aspects of our old lives. We do. We’ll always miss our family members and friends. At times, we even forget our old house, the lake, the wildlife, and our wonderful neighbors.

But, it feels as if all of that was a lifetime ago. These seven years have left us drawing upon memories of prior years, which is a blur in many ways…not the time we spent with loved ones but the intangible sensations of the Christmas season…the smell of cookies baking; the twinkling of tiny lights on the tree; and the often falling snowflakes.

But soon, as we embark on yet another exotic and unusual journey, we find ourselves relieved of such idle meanderings as we imagine the future ahead of us and what treasures it has to bring.

Nothing like an adorable “wiener dog” to liven up the VFW’s Christmas Eve festivities.

No, people don’t understand the powerful hold that the wanderlust spirit has blissfully imposed upon us. We love this life. We’re often asked, “How could you possibly leave everyone you love behind?”

We didn’t make that decision lightly, nor do we flippantly consider it now. We hope and pray our family members to understand and know full well that however far away we may be, they are always in our hearts and minds.

My paternal grandmother, whom I dearly cherished, lived across the country when I was a child. We only saw her once every five or six years and stayed in touch via handwritten letters and perhaps a once-a-year phone call. I never loved her any less that she chose to live far away. I loved her all the more.

Many brought “white elephant gifts” to swap amongst each other. It was fun to see some of the funny gifts, including a 10-year-old who ended up with an adult movie that his parents immediately grabbed from his hands.

We can only hope our fast-growing-up grandchildren and adult children feel the same, accepting and loving us just the same. With the availability of the internet, it has been much easier to stay in touch, see their faces, hear their voices, and share their lives.

Life is never perfect, nor is it precisely as we wished it would be with all the efforts we’ve made in the world. This past year was a life-shattering and potentially life-changing experience when I had emergency open-heart surgery in February in South Africa.

Both of us have had many challenges in our lives, as most people do. Yet, somehow, we made it through. Did we learn something from this frightening experience? I can’t say we learned a lot about ourselves we didn’t already know.

The table was filled with white elephant gifts.

But, we did learn one thing often asked of us, “What will you do if something goes wrong?” At the time of these types of queries, we’d look at one another and reply, “We’ll figure it out.”

And that is exactly what we did. We figured it out. Here we are now, only 35 days before departure for India, and we’re braced and ready for this next phase of our travels, armed with the knowledge that we have the motivation, mutual love, and determination that we’ll always be able to “figure it out.”

Merry Christmas to every one of our family members, readers/friends, and all the people we’ve met along the way. We truly feel blessed in more than one way.

Photo from one year ago today, December 25, 2018:

Little doesn’t disappoint.  He stopped by Christmas Eve morning and began walking up the steps to the house. I found him on step #3 and encouraged him to eat outside. He complied.  I tendered pellets, apples, and carrots.  He ate the produce and left the pellets thinking about the human leftovers he would be getting elsewhere at a holidaymaker’s house, maybe chips, Christmas cookies, and marshmallows (none of which are suitable for him).  But, after all, he is a pig, and he likes junk food, too. Merry Christmas. For more, please click here.

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to all of our family and friends/readers who celebrate…

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to our friends all over the world.

We extend our heartfelt wishes to those who celebrate Christmas and Chanukah. We awoke this morning to Christmas Eve day, and with an unusual (for us) activity on the agenda, we’re celebrating with Tom’s sisters and spouses once again.

This morning at 5:20 am, Tom bolted out of bed to drive Margie to the Mesa airport. She was flying back to Minnesota for her granddaughter’s wedding on New Year’s Eve and will return to Apache Junction the first week in January.

This leaves the six of us to continue the holiday season celebrations, which included Tom’s birthday last night with a big meal and the Minnesota Vikings game (they lost) we watched shortly after dining.

I could kick myself for failing to take photos. Now that I’m using my Google 4XL phone to take photos, I am having a hard time taking time out of the festivities. I certainly will be taking photos in India soon enough.

But, in reality, life isn’t always about photos. It’s about memorable experiences, and those aren’t always captured with a phone or camera. Tom’s birthday celebration was easy flowing, lively, and delightfully fun for the seven of us.

So what’s on the agenda today? We’re joining the family for their tradition of attending the local VFW’s annual “Tom & Jerry” Christmas Eve Day party, which begins at 1:00 pm, ending around 4:00 pm. 

Neither Tom nor I drink Tom and Jerry’s, and most likely, one of us will be the designated driver since we don’t care to drink adult beverages during the day. Instead, we’ll have fun with the others enjoying this unusual way for us to celebrate Christmas Eve Day.

As for last night’s dinner, everything came out exactly as planned. Some of the garlic bread edges were overcooked, but I trimmed them off, and it was still a hit. Tom perfectly cooked everyone’s steak medium rare as requested and mine rare. 

The butterflied garlic butter prawns were delicious, and not a one was left behind. At halftime, I served Tom’s lemon birthday cake, and they all thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a good meal.

With the kitchen’s small size, it’s imperative we get everything out of the way. Last night, after dinner, Tom washed all the dishes right away. Shortly afterward, I dried the dishes and put everything away. We awoke this morning to the little house being tidy and back in order.

Living in this small space and yet performing normal household activities requires diligence in keeping everything tidy, or a feeling of chaos would ensue. We avoid chaos like the plague.

Speaking of the plague, we’re finally recovered from the dreadful flu that lasted for over six weeks, although on occasion, we cough a little. That virus compared to the awful virus from a cruise to Sydney in 2015 that left us both coughing for weeks.

Tom is napping right now. Not a good napper, I am walking on my tiptoes to avoid making any noise and awakening him. Hopefully, he can rest for an hour or two until we leave for the VFW.

We wish every one of our family, friends/readers a very Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah. May the joy, spirituality, and merriment of the season fill your hearts with love, fulfillment, and hope for the future.

Thank you for sharing this time, all times in the past and times upcoming in the future. All of you are instrumental in the joy we feel as we continue on this journey…36 days and counting…

Photo from one year ago today, December 24, 2018:

OThe bright light behind us wasn’t the best vantage point in taking this photo. From left to right: Don, Kathy, me, Tom, Danie, Gerhard with Louise and Rita in front. For more photos from his party one year ago, please click here.

Happy birthday to my husband Tom…A special celebration on the menu…

Jandre, Danie, Kathy, Tom, me, Rita, Louise and Gerhard on the veranda overlooking the Crocodile River at Tom’s birthday party last year. (Photo is from the following day’s post on December 24th. Don, Kathy’s husband, took the photo).

It’s a delightfully busy morning as I continue to prep today’s dishes for Tom’s birthday dinner party starting at 4:00 pm today. Yesterday, we posted the menu. If you missed it, please click here.

Thank goodness I managed to get all the chopping and dicing done yesterday. Although the menu is uncomplicated, it still requires tremendous preparation to pull it all together.

All I have left to do today is broil the garlic shrimp, broil the garlic bread, cook the sauteed Portobello mushrooms, bake the potatoes, toss the salad and wrap up the cake, which has been baked and is awaiting the finishing touches. It will be an easy day.

Yesterday we squeezed all the lemons for the Lemon Drop Martinis, and soon I’ll add the sugar and wrap up the mix to which our guests may add either gin or vodka, which I’ll whir with ice in Mary’s borrowed blender.

With limited space, I can’t set the table until it’s time to eat. We’re borrowing a table from Mary which, as it turns out, we’ll have to set up indoors. It’s a very cool and cloudy day with possibilities of rain requiring we eat indoors.

Tom will cook the already marinating New York Strip steaks to order on the grill while getting the remaining dishes ready to be served. No stress here. I’ve always strived to make dinner parties seamless by avoiding being in an uproar for any part of it. 

Nothing stresses guests more when they see their hosts scrambling in an attempt to get the meal put together. We’ve strived to avoid such a scenario preferring our guests can relax and enjoy their time at our party.

I am overflowing with love and gratefulness for my husband. This morning I wrote a tribute to him on Facebook as follows, which says it all:

“Happy birthday to my husband Tom, my travel companion, friend, and forever lover. You always have been a loving and thoughtful partner, but this past year you further proved the “stuff” you are made of when you took care of me for many months while I recovered from open-heart surgery in South Africa and after that. Your love and devotion came through every day and continue now that I am well. This photo was taken when we were in Tanzania in the savannah. Now, my dream life continues with the man of my dreams when in 37 days, we depart for two months touring India. Happy birthday, my love. I love you always…”

Our goal is not to “toot our own horn” here if possible. Still, today I couldn’t help but remind Tom and our readers how fortunate I feel, we feel, to have one another, to be living this extraordinary life, and, most of all, to continue after this trying year.

But, this year is significant when we have the opportunity to share it with a part of Tom’s family; three of his six sisters, two brothers-in-law, and each other is usually warm and sunny Arizona.

May you have a fantastic day as the Christmas festivities continue…

Photo from one year ago today, December 23, 2018:

December 23, 2017:  Happy 65th birthday to my darling husband, lover,  travel companion, and forever friend who has made this special and unique life of world travel possible. Click here for details. For the post from one year ago today, please click here.

Prepping for Tom’s birthday dinner…Here’s the menu…

Photo of the beautiful Crocodile River taken from Marloth Park on this date in 2013. For more, please click here.

Tomorrow’s birthday dinner for Tom is the first big meal I’ve made for guests in over ten months. When deciding on the menu for his birthday dinner tomorrow, I found it necessary to consider several factors: one, the limited space in the kitchen; two, that the various dishes are easy to prepare; Tom’s taste preferences (along with our guests); and limited space for serving a variety of side dishes.

While at the market last weekend, we noticed reasonable prices on New York Strip steaks. They looked meaty with little visible fat, and although the portions are significant, everyone can take a “doggy bag” home if they’d like.

We purchased two packages of five steaks each and separated the seven we’d need for the meal, keeping three for the two of us at some point in the future and freezing all of them. Steak on its own may not be all that exciting for some, so we also purchased a bag of jumbo butterflied prawns. 

Each plate will have a steak and prawns. Thus, the menu rolled out as follows:

  • New York Strip steaks, cooked to order on the grill
  • Jumbo garlic broiled butterflied prawns
  • Baked potatoes with sour cream and fresh chives
  • Asian green beans with light spices, bacon, sauteed garlic, and onion
  • Sauteed Portabello mushrooms
  • Par 30 Salad: a delicious tossed salad from a recipe, in our old lives, from a restaurant on at a nearby golf course. Romaine lettuce, green onions, bacon, slivered almonds tossed in a slightly sweet and tangy homemade dressing
  • Garlic bread, topped with fresh garlic and Parmesan cheese
  • Tom’s favorite lemon cake, infused with vanilla pudding, crushed pineapple, and topped with Cool Whip
The items on this menu that work for me are steak, prawns, green beans, mushrooms, and salad. This is an ideal meal for me and hopefully for everyone else.

We’ll dine by 4:00 or 4:30 pm due to a Vikings game on TV starting at 6:15 pm. All of us, from Minnesota, will watch the game. We have enough chairs and seating to make this work for the seven of us. 

I’ll likely serve the cake at halftime or sooner when everyone’s ready for the final course. I’ve always loved this cake, so I have to remind myself not to lick my fingers or take a single taste.

I decided against serving any snacks or appetizers before the meal when all it does is make everyone complete before the dinner is served. It isn’t enjoyable for the cook to find guests already complete before the main meal is served. And, it’s hard for the guests who wish they had “room” to eat the main meal. 

Today, we took off for the Safeway market for a few last-minute items while drying our laundry. We were back in time by a few minutes before it was done. Returning to the house, we put all the laundry away, and I started chopping and dicing for tomorrow’s meal.

Soon, we’ll juice all the lemons for tomorrow’s Lemon Drop Martinis. We picked all the lemons from Mary and Eugene’s lemon tree in front of their property. Colleen provided a bottle of Sapphire Gin and a bottle of Absolute Vodka to use for the martinis.

After our 3:00 pm main meal today: roast chicken, salad and rice (for Tom) he’ll vacuum all the floors and I’ll wash them. This morning I did some cleaning, so we’ll be all set by the end of the day as I continue to work on the above side dishes. I’ve already finished the green beans and will continue to chop and dice for the salad.

First thing in the morning, I’ll make the cake, marinate the steaks, prep the prawns, potatoes, and garlic bread. I’m doing as much as I can today to ensure tomorrow is easy.

Hopefully, the day will be as warm and sunny as today, with a high of 72F (22C). May you have a warm and sunny day as you plan and prepare for the holiday season.

Photo from one year ago today, December 22, 2018:
The baby bushbuck took cover behind mom when she wasn’t sure what to do when she saw us. For more photos, please click here.

Planning Tom’s birthday party on the 23rd and holiday festivities…


Photo from this date in 2013: Of nine members of this warthog family, there are two moms; one with four babies and three babies.  From watching this family almost daily over 18 days, we believe the mom shown above is the mom of the three babies, which, if you look closely, are all nursing. (It’s hard to see the third).  Thus, the baby on which she is resting her chin belongs to the other nearby mom and seems comfortable with this situation.  We couldn’t have laughed more when the fourth baby provided this neck resting spot, whether hers or not. For more photos from this date, please click here.

With Tom’s birthday party in only four days, we’ve begun planning how we’ll seat seven people for dinner in our tiny house. We have four chairs inside, two at the dining table, and four chairs outside, which we can bring in as needed. 

The outdoor table has a glass top, and it would be impossible to bring it inside. If the weather isn’t too cold, we could eat early outdoors, getting the inside table and chairs outdoors. 

The weather forecast predicts 69F (21C) on Monday. Usually, it’s warmest here between 3:00 and 4:00 pm. With the Minnesota Vikings game on at 6:15 pm, it should work well if we eat around 4:00 pm and have “birthday cake” during halftime. 

An easy dinner is planned to avoid spending too much time in the tiny kitchen. Tom will cook on the gas grill while I wrap up the sides indoors. We only have six plates and salad bowls, so we’ll borrow one more of each from the sisters to round it out to the seven of us.

Today, we’ll walk down to Mary and Eugene’s place to pick lemons off of her overflowing lemon tree to make lemon drop martinis as we’d made last year at his birthday party, hosted by Rita and Gerhard. We’ll borrow a blender from Mary and a juicer from Margie as well.

My grocery list is complete, and we’ve already purchased the meat and ingredients for the dessert. A quick trip to the market will wrap it up, which I’ll do over the weekend or perhaps tomorrow to avoid some of the Christmas rushes.

On Christmas Day, Mary and Eugene are having a traditional turkey dinner. I will make the side vegetables and possibly a few pies. No doubt, the festivities will be delicious and festive.

Christmas is less about gifts, decorating, or a Christmas tree, which we haven’t done since we began traveling. It’s never made sense living all over the world, nor would be willing to accumulate “stuff.” We send gifts to the grandkids but had mutually agreed long ago not to purchase gifts for the adult kids.

We aren’t particular about Christmas Eve yet. Typically the family goes to a local establishment for drinks and light meals. Surely, we’ll join them this year. And, we’re planning to go to Christmas Eve Mass at a nearby church which starts at 8:00 pm, instead of midnight.

There are many seniors in this area, and Midnight Mass would probably be poorly attended. Let’s face it; most seniors go to bed reasonably early, making midnight a little late for most of us.

Yesterday, at 4:00 pm, we attended the pot luck mulled wine party at the clubhouse. I’d make a double batch of artichoke dip with Club crackers. We had no idea how many would attend, so I assumed a doubt batch would be best. 

Much to my surprise, the mulled wine was delicious and made without sugar. As it turned out, the huge hot pan of the dip was consumed in no time at all, along with all the dishes others had brought along. With the chilly weather, it was a welcomed treat to stay warm.

Unfortunately, we’d forgotten to bring a camera or phone with us for photos. It would have been great to share photos with at least a few hundred people in attendance and live music. Sorry about that!

In any case, Tom’s birthday and the holidays will be meaningful and fun while we’re here in Apache Junction. May all of our readers who celebrate have an excellent time planning their holiday festivities.

Photo from one year ago today, December 19, 2018:

This is one of our favorite pairs of warthogs, Mike and Joe, named after two US vice presidents, non-partisan of course, Mike Pence (current) and Joe Biden (last presidency).  Tom always says, “The VPs are here.” For more photos, please click here.