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:

OUR HOLIDAY TABLE

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.

Shaken, not stirred…A special birthday for Tom filled with surprises…Merry Christmas to all…

The festive spirit took over. Danie, Rita, me, Tom, Gerhard (in the back), Kathy and Don from left to right.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Party or not, this is Africa, and a scorpion visitor joined the party on the back of the bathroom door.

It’s not easy to pull off a surprise birthday party. Tom began to wonder when I packed two bottles of gin and two bottles of vodka with about 30 lemons to make sugar-free Lemon Drop Martinis for Rita and me. Most likely, neither of us would drink more than two.

The bright light behind us wasn’t the best vantage point in taking this photo. From left to right: Don, Kathye me, Tom, Danie, Gerhard with Louise and Rita in front.
But, in Tom’s usual go-with-the-flow mentality, he went along with the premise that I always make a lot of whatever we’re having, and he brushed it off as my usual nonsense.
Beautiful platters of snacks.

We made our way to Rita and Gerhard’s giant condo at Ngwenya Lodge. We made our way down a few steps carrying the apple crisp dessert I’d made earlier in the day, a box of four fancy martini glasses, an electric juicer Louise had provided, and two chill boxes (coolers in SA) filled to the brim with ice.

Jandre, Danie, Kathy, Tom, Rita, Louise, and Gerhard on the veranda overlooking the Crocodile River.

Rita and Gerhard greeted us with much hoopla and enthusiasm as we entered the condo to find it beautifully decorated with balloons, streamers, blowers, and sparkly “Happy Birthday” confetti strewn about. We gasped in sheer wonder.

The outdoor table is set for 10.

It was apparent they’d gone to a lot of work for the dinner party for four. But wait.  Moments later, Kathy and Don, Louise and Danie, son Jandre, and girlfriend Michelle popped into the living room with blowers in their mouths shouting, “Happy Birthday, Tom!” 

Our hosts, Rita and Gerhard, couldn’t have done anything more to make this a spectacular birthday for Tom and a celebration for all of us.  Our heartfelt love and thanks to them both.

A surprise birthday party was born, albeit with only 10 of us but easily some of our most beloved friends in the bush. Tom couldn’t stop smiling as I “oohed” and “aahed” over every detail, gleefully taking photos of the stunning spread.

We mulled around chatting until dark when we finally sat down to dinner.

There were appetizer platters made by Rita and Louise, the outdoor table set for 10, with the aroma of delicious foods cooking on the stove and in the oven. How did we get so lucky to have such fine friends?

With the help of Jandre, who juiced all the lemons, after some photo-taking, Tom and I got to work making the Lemon Drop martinis, after everyone who wanted one, eight out of ten, specified if they’d preferred Bombay Gin or Seagram’s Vodka (the only vodka brand we could find at the local liquor shop).

Jandre and Michelle.

“Shaken, not stirred,” we made the martinis which everyone seemed to enjoy, several asking for seconds a while later. Rita was busy in last-minute preparations for the fantastic meal she’d prepared while Kathy and Louise also helped in the kitchen. 

The festive nature of this special night was easily felt by all. The spirit of Christmas wafting through our heads, coupled with the smells of great food, the sights of the decorative setting, and the joyful nature of each one of us in attendance, created a night we’ll never forget.

Danie and Louise.

The night flew by too quickly. From the food served seamlessly on a buffet table in the kitchen to fill our plates and return to the outdoor table to the giant scorpion Michelle discovered on the back of the bathroom door, every moment was memorable.

As the evening ended and we packed up our remains, glassware, juicer, and two cool boxes, we hugged everyone goodnight, thanking them for sharing Tom’s special night.

Jandre, Michelle, Tom, Rita, Louise, and Gerhard huddled together for a photo.

And what can we say to Rita and Gerhard that could praise the depth of our appreciation? Thank you didn’t seem sufficient enough, but for now, we hugged, we praised the fantastic job and hard work in putting it all together, and we walked out the door, looking forward to today when they’re joining us tonight for Christmas Eve dinner.

Our dinner tonight won’t be quite as elaborate. We’re making homemade pizza, salad, and garlic bread (for the boys) with more of the delicious apple crisp for dessert, which everyone seemed to love.

Tom and Don, celebrating together. We met him and Kathy five years ago today, Christmas Eve, when they invited us to their bush home, having never met us but heard about us from friends Lynne and Mick, who we’ll all see again sometime in January.

So, now we change gears for the Christmas celebration in the bush, our second such affair in the past five years. But, this time, our circle of friends has expanded, and the meaning and blessings of the holiday season hold all the more joy. 

Tomorrow, us and Rita and Gerhard will join Kathy and Don at their home for Christmas dinner, and the good times with friends will continue. 

A few weeks ago, Kathy and Rita nonchalantly asked Tom, “What’s your favorite meal?”  He replied, “meat, mashed potatoes, sweet corn, and green beans.  Well, look here! All his favorites and more, steamed cauliflower, potato salad, Greek salad, and spinach salad. What a fantastic meal!

May your Christmas season (should you celebrate) be filled with the company of those you love, with the spirit of the holiday season embracing your heart and soul.

Note: On December 26th, we’ll be posting photos from Kathy and Don’s two-holiday events. Please check back.

Photo from one year ago today, December 24, 2017:

Another colorful building exterior as we made our first walk in the neighborhood in Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina, one year ago today. For more, please click here.

Remembering Tom’s birthday over our years of world travel….Happy birthday, Tom!!!…

December 23, 2013:  We were so preoccupied with a “safari luck” day in Kruger, we didn’t take photos of Tom on his birthday.  Instead, here’s a favorite hippo photo we took on the sunset game drive. Click here for details.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

We were thrilled to see Wildebeest Willie stop by for a bit of hay, some pellets, and a nap in the shade.

Looking back at posts on Tom’s birthday since 2012, after we’d left Minnesota to begin our journey, we’re reminded of how few photos we’ve taken of us over the years. 

It’s not as if we’re particularly camera shy. It’s more about the fact that we’re preoccupied with our surroundings, finding using the camera’s timer to take a photo of us a bit cumbersome, and preferring not to disturb other travelers to take our photo.

December 23, 2012:  At that time, we rarely posted photos, unaware of how big the commitment to posting would eventually become and all the worldwide readers we’d finally have. Click here for the text from the post on Tom’s birthday in 2012.

Also, I guess I wasn’t diligent enough over the years to take photos of Tom on his birthdays as often as I could have.  Tonight, at Rita and Gerhard’s temporary home at Ngwenya, where they’re making a special birthday dinner for him, I promise to take photos.

December 23, 2014: Click here for a video taken on Tom’s birthday while in the Pahoa, on the Big Island in Hawaii with our kids and grandkids.


Last night, we did take photos at Kathy and Don’s party. Still, once again, none of us, as we were preoccupied chatting with everyone, dining on excellent starters, appetizers, or PuPu platters as Kathy and Don, who also live in Hawaii, refer to a variety of platters of delicious foodstuffs suitable for nibbling or dining. We’ll post those photos soon.

But today, Tom’s birthday is my primary focus. I know I could go on and on extolling his virtues as a husband, lover, travel companion, and best friend, but you’ve heard it all before.

December 23, 2015:  Tom’s birthday dinner in Fiji. My rumpled lobster juice-soiled clothes were a sight to see after dinner. Click here for details.

Recently, I read some reviews from another travel writer’s post, and the wife was severely criticized for raving on and on about how wonderful her husband is. I cringed, thinking, “Oh, good grief, that could be me.”

We don’t get many “haters” and are incredibly grateful we don’t have to deal with the emotional upheaval that can be precipitated by negative comments from readers.  

Thus, I learned a lesson from someone else’s experience and tempered my enthusiasm to describe Tom’s fine qualities. Above all, on this day of his, I’ll say I am grateful…for him…for our lives together…for the friends we’ve made along the way and for this magical world we live in.

December 23, 2016:  Mersey Beach bluff in Tasmania, where we dined on Tom’s birthday. The outdoor food wasn’t exceptional, the live band was festive, and the ocean views were exquisite. But, again, I failed to take photos of him that night. Click here for details.

It’s not just Marloth Park. It’s also all the other places we’ve visited in the past six years. It’s all the different experiences we’ve had along the way. And, we can’t forget the joys of our “old lives” so many moons ago that linger as distant memories that flood our hearts and minds when we stop for a moment to recall.

Tonight we’ll celebrate with friends. Today, we’ll revel in the day, and whatever morsels of nature wander our way. We’ve already been greeted by Ms. Bushbuck and Baby and, of course, our friend “Little,” who loved eating the apple peels from the birthday dessert Tom requested for tonight – homemade gluten-free apple crisp topped with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.  

We have no doubt tonight will be wonderful at Rita and Gerhard’s birthday dinner.  We’re bringing all the ingredients to make sugar-free Lemon Drop Martinis for this special occasion and his non-traditional birthday cake of apple crisp.
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.

We’ll be back tomorrow with photos from last night’s party and tonight, including photos of our friends and us.

Christmas is almost here. May the blessings of the holiday season (for those who celebrate) fill your hearts and homes with love.

Photo from one year ago today, December 23, 2017:

Panamanian hats for sale in Manta, Ecuador. This was the last post with favorite photos from the 30-night South America cruise, which ended on this date, one year ago. Click here for details.

Happy Birthday, Tom!…Today, we celebrate YOU and…what???…Photos of Tom over the past year…

While crossing the countryside several days ago, Tom spotted this highly venomous Tiger snake crossing the road. Quickly turning around, as it raced off into the vegetation, we were able to get this photo. For information on these scary snakes, please click here where it’s stated, “Most Australians know of tiger snakes and are aware of their fearsome reputation, though few people will ever encounter one.” Leave it to us to encounter one after only 20 days in Tasmania!

On a beautiful warm and sunny day, today we celebrate Tom’s 64th birthday. Without a lot of hoopla, no presents, cards or birthday cake, we celebrate it with as much enthusiasm as ever. 

While in a resort in Kenya in October 2013, celebrating our first worldwide travel anniversary, Tom agreed to take part in the reptile exhibition. Click here for the full post.

Today, we thought it would be fun to share our snake stories when only two days ago we encountered the feared highly venomous Tiger Snake, which most Australians never see in their lifetime.  This precipitated our sharing other snake encounters in our world travels in the past 50 months.

Just so you know, Tom doesn’t like snakes. But, encountering wildlife of many types is a highlight of our world travels and we treat each encounter with respect, curiosity and interest, although in this recent encounter and others shown here, with the utmost of caution.

Only slightly venomous, he held this snake in his hand without incident.

Grateful for another healthy and meaningful year in our world travel, it is easy to look back and revel in the experiences we’ve had over the past year. The joy of seeing him embrace each and every location with childlike wonder adds so much to my own experience, let alone us as a couple.

Tom let this green snake slither up his arm.

In these past 12 months since his last birthday, we’ve traveled to Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Bali (Indonesia), Viet Nam, Cambodia and Thailand.

We’ve sailed on four ocean cruises and one river cruise (Mekong), finally circumventing the Australian continent on a 33-night back to back cruise (two separate cruises, one after another with us staying in the same cabin) ending up here in Tasmania, Australia after a short flight from Sydney. Wow!

This semi venomous snake paralyses its prey. If they bite a human, the area of the bite will feel numb for a few hours but poses no systemic risk. We were told to keep the head away from us while handling it.  This is me holding it as Tom took the photo.

It’s even difficult for us to fathom the fact that we’ve visited and lived in so many countries in one year. We were in Malaysia for only a day, but spent from one week to four months in the remaining locations. It was a very good year.

This venomous snake, a Mozambique Splitting Cobra, dropped from the ceiling of the veranda in Marloth Park, South Africa, less than one meter from Tom’s bare feet as we sat outdoors awaiting the day’s “visitors.” For more details, please click here.

Now, as we look to Tom’s 64th year, we anticipate the future with even more excitement, as we look forward to the following, until his next birthday:
1.  March 1, 2017 to March 13, 2017, depart Tasmania, head to Sydney, boarding a 12 night cruise to New Caledonia; Vanuatu; Fiji and then back to Sydney.
2.  March 13, 2017 to April 22, 2017, stay in Manly (Sydney) for 40 nights in a vacation home.
3.  April 22, 2017 to May 15, 2017, a 24 night cruise from Sydney to Seattle, Washington, visiting Hawaii along the way.  Make our way by land from Seattle, Washington to Vancouver, British Columbia, where we’ll spend two nights awaiting another cruise. (Continued below).

A python on Tom’s shoulder in Kenya.

4.  May 17, 2017 to May 26, 2017, board an Alaskan cruise from Vancouver to Seattle with four ports in Alaska, including; Ketchikan; Juneau; Skagway and Hubbard Glacier; Sitka; and Victoria, BC; then back to Seattle.
5.  May 26, 2017, fly from Seattle, Washington to Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Stay six weeks visiting family and friends.
6.  July 7, 2017, flies from Minnesota to Nevada where we’ll stay for three weeks visiting family.  (Continued below).

I took this photo of Tom while we shopped for toiletries Sydney, Australia before boarding that day’s cruise on January 5, 2016. It was pouring rain. We were soaked but happy, as shown by the huge smile on his face!

7.  August 1, 2017 to November 22, 2017, fly from Nevada to Costa Rica where we’ll stay in a vacation home.
8.  November 22, 2017, fly to Miami to spend one night in a hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
9. November 23, 2017 to December 8, 2017, board the cruise in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, including visits to Grand Cayman Islands; full transit on the new Panama Canal; Manta, Equador; Lima, Peru; Pisco, Peru; Arica, Chile; and on to Santiago, Chili.  (Continued below).

In early 2016, we visited Everybody’s Theatre in Opunake, New Zealand when I shot this photo of Tom. Click here for details.

10.

  December 8, 2017 to December 23, 2017, stay on the same above cruise to continue on to Santiago, Chili to Buenos Aires, Argentina including visits to Puerto Montt, Chili; Chilean Fjords (cruising); Straits of Magellan;  Punta Arenas, Chili; Ushuaia, Argentina; Cape Horn (cruising); Puerto Madryn, Argentina; Punta del Este, Uruguay; Montevideo, Uruguay;  Buenos Aires.

This itinerary is expansive and exciting, each leg of the journey filling us with a sense of adventure and grateful for the opportunities to continue on this path, hopefully for many more birthdays to come.

While in Bali, this year, Tom dressed in traditional Hindu garb with the help of our household staff.  Love that hat on him (and the beard!) which he’s since shaved off. Click here for details.

So, on this day, I wish my dear husband, travel companion, best friend and lover, a very happy birthday and new year of his life.  Thank you for celebrating this life with me, for making each day a holiday and a memorable experience and above all, for the opportunity in spending each day with YOU!

Photo from one year ago today, December 23, 2015:

One year ago when I post a birthday letter to Tom, I posted this single photo of Tom which was taken in March, 2015, when we were in Princeville, Kauai playing bingo at the senior center. For Tom’s birthday letter from last year, please click here.