A special dinner with my granddaughter Maisie…

My sweet granddaughter, Maisie, is heading to school in Wisconsin. Last night was a special time for us to get together before she had to leave today. We had a fantastic time.

When we knew we were coming here, we were aware that Maisie would be attending school in Wisconsin, and we wanted to spend as much time with her before she left. We planned last night as a special time for just the two of us to chat and commiserate as granddaughters and grandmas often do.

The time passed quickly as we chatted and ate our dinners while situated in a comfy booth at the familiar restaurant we often visit when we stay in Eden Prairie. Tom had perused the menu before I left and picked out his “dinner to go,” which I ordered for him during the last 20 minutes in the restaurant.

When son Greg dropped me off at the hotel with Tom’s dinner, he hugged Maisie and wished her well on her new experience. Gosh, our grandkids are growing up fast. Fortunately, we’ve returned to Minnesota many times over the years to see them and see how much they’ve grown and matured.

Maisie enjoyed her pasta but couldn’t eat all of it and gave her dad the leftovers when he came to pick us up.

Back in our room for the remainder of the evening, we streamed the last episode of The Lincoln Lawyer, a great show, and began watching a series recommended by our friends Marylin and Gary, who visited us in Henderson, Nevada, about a week ago. The show is on Netflix entitled Formula One, a docu-series with five seasons to watch. We got into the show right away and look forward to many other episodes.

Thanks, Marylin and Gary! I apologize for spelling your name wrong in past posts. I recalled something unique about the spelling of Marylin’s name, but I looked up a past email to see if I’d been spelling it wrong. Sorry about that, dear friend. I will get it right in the future!

Speaking of dear friends, in a few minutes, my friend Chere will arrive at the hotel for us to visit. We saw each other about a year ago when we were here, and it will be fun to see her again now. We’ve been friends for about 25 years, and conversations with her are exciting and delightful.

Later today, Tom and I will head to Costco, just around the corner from the hotel, to use some of the gift cards we received from booking one of our last cruises through their travel department. Plus, he had a few other Costco credits from buying gas using the Costco credit card and another bonus we received. Overall, we have about $500 in Costco gift cards.

My Cobb salad from Champps was good but not great. The chicken should have been cut into small pieces and tossed into the salad. Otherwise, it was good.

We’re going to Greg’s home tonight to watch the Minnesota Vikings game at 7:00 pm. We’ll bring some ready-made food from Costco, so we don’t have to cook and make a mess.

After a wonderful get-together with my friend Chere, I just returned to the room. As usual, she and I sat at a table in the hotel lobby area and enjoyed chatting. Hopefully, she and I will figure out other times to meet again before our month in Minnesota ends.

On Friday, at 1:00 pm, we’re meeting Tom’s old friend Charlie and his wife Pat for lunch in Albertville. He and Charlie were pals for decades while working on the railroad. It will be fun to see them both once again.

That’s it for today, dear readers.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, September 14, 2013:

Ten years ago today, we booked our first safari adventure at Sanctuary Retreat, Olonana, in the Maasai Mara, Kenya, one of the most fantastic safari locations in the world. For more, please click here.

Seven days and counting…

Sports cars drove through the winding and narrow roads of Bovegio, Tuscany, Italy. This is an MG, year and model unknown.

Today’s photos are from a post on this date in 2013. For more, please click here.

It’s noon on Friday. We just finished a nice breakfast of bacon and eggs and will dine out tonight at Brownwood Paddock Square. We plan to arrive after 5:00 pm when the outdoor karaoke has ended, and most likely, we’ll be able to get two seats at the bar. As usual, we’ll stay about an hour and then head to Cody’s Original Roadhouse for yet another hopefully good dinner.

A Porsche, year and model unknown.

This will be our last Friday night out in The Villages since we arrived almost three months ago. We accomplished what we came here for…renewing our ten-year passports and, in the process, seeing several of our friends who live in Florida. We didn’t have an opportunity to see all of our “snowbird” friends who come to Florida in the winter to escape the cold weather up north.

By the time we arrived at the end of April, some of our friends had already left for cooler climates during the summer months. Once we’re in Minnesota for a month in September and part of October, we’re hoping to see some of those friends, those who may not have left yet for the upcoming winter.

Another Porsche, year and model unknown.

This will be our most extended stay in Minnesota since we began our travels in 2012 which will give us lots of valuable time with our family, including our grown kids and grandkids. Plus, Tom has many family members in Minnesota, including. His sisters spend the summer and early fall in Minnesota before they head to Arizona for the winter to get away from Minnesota, the frozen tundra.

Today is easy with two loads of laundry washing and drying and with little else to do. Soon the Salvation Army will pick up my eight pounds of clothes. After sending Tom’s suits and my dresses yesterday, we’ve lightened our load by about 14 pounds, 6.35 kg.

This is a Mercedes, year and model unknown.

When we begin packing on Monday, we’ll have a better idea of our baggage weight and can make any adjustments we may need before departure. We’ve added some new items while we’ve been here, but nothing of any substantial weight. The heaviest was my white jeans for “white night” on the Azamara cruise, coming up first.

On the Azamara cruise, guests can use laundry facilities for a fee. On the next cruise, Celebrity, we have a high enough rating for their Captain’s Club to each get one complimentary bag of laundry and two dry-cleaned items, and one pressed item each.

This morning, I tried something new for my head, a freezer hot and cold pack. I’d tried cold, and it helped, but nowhere near as much as the heat helped. As a result, I ordered a neck and head heating pad from Amazon that heats using a UBS plug. Thus, I can use it on the plane and in our hotels and cabins without needing a microwave to heat the gel packet. Also, it will work plugged into my portable charger.

This must be a Triumph.

I’m continuing to do acupressure exercises and particular movements to improve the condition, which is about 50% better than weeks ago. I hope the improvements will continue over time.

That’s it for today, folks.

Be well.

..Photo from ten years ago today, July 21, 2013:

Is this an MG? Year? Notice, at a distance, the red Ferrari or Lamborghini. A car show, per se, driving through the winding roads of Boveglio. For more, please click here.

Day #3…no headache…fingers crossed…Photo of an old friend…

This is Noah, not his dad Norman. He’s grown so much. He has an injured hip that is healing well after treatment from Dr. Piet.

First, I must add that if you have any medical issues, please see your medical professionals for diagnosis and potential treatment. In my case, I had done that but still suffered, which prompted me to do my own research.

I am holding my breath in hopes that my headache and facial pain that began the day I got Covid-19’s Omicron on April 20, 2022 (15 months ago) may actually be resolving from a new treatment modality I started a week ago. In desperation, I have researched and researched, looking for answers.

In South Africa, Doc Theo first diagnosed it as trigeminal neuralgia, precipitated by the virus causing inflammation to the trigeminal nerve in my face and forehead. He was on the right track, but at the same time, I was suffering from severe allergies to pollen and dust in Marloth Park, which hadn’t ever been a problem in the past.

Thus, we considered it might be a sinus problem when I had such severe allergy symptoms simultaneously. It was tricky to pin down the exact cause. When I went to Dr. Singh, the high-tech dentist in Malelane, he did a full head scan and said my sinuses looked mildly inflamed but no more than anyone with allergies in the summer months. I was at a loss.

Doc Thei prescribed a drug that may work for trigeminal neuralgia, amitryptiline, an off-label use for the anti-seizure medication. I got relief from the pain after upping the dose. But, even taking it at night, I was exhausted during the day and could barely function, and I started gaining weight, which are common side effects of that drug. I had to stop taking it.

Months later, still suffering, Doc Theo suggested we try antibiotics, prednisone, and a strong prescription antihistamine. Within four days, I was symptom-free, but once the prednisone was tapered off, the pain returned with a vengeance. This was in early  April. I stayed on the antihistamine since it gave me excellent allergy control, but the headache and facial pain continued.

Then, a week before we left Marloth Park to fly to Florida, I had a horrifying bout of Afib (which I’d never had since right after heart surgery in 2019 while still in hospital). I stayed in hospital for three days in ICU, having countless tests, none of which indicated any cause for the Afib. I left the hospital, and four days later, we began the long journey to the US to go to Florida to renew our passports.

The cardiologist prescribed a powerful drug that made me so sick I had to lie in bed for the first two days I was back in Marloth Park. I stopped the medication. I had to be functional to make the 35-hour journey to the US. The side effects wore off by the time we left, but I still had the headache and face pain.

On the 17-hour flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta, I had another Afib bout lasting six hours of pure hell. I was terrified if I told the flight attendant, they’d turn the plane around. Finally, it subsided, and I made it through the remainder of the flight without incident, although I still didn’t feel well, even after we arrived at the house in The Villages.

Noah is so handsome, just like his dad.

Once we got situated here, I went on a massive campaign to figure out why I’d had the two awful bouts of Afib. I researched the few remaining medications I’d been taking for years to see if they could cause the problem. But then, when I researched the antihistamine, Xyzal, and found this (and others) study here that reads:

“Xyzal and Atrial fibrillation/flutter – a phase IV clinical study of FDA data


Atrial fibrillation/flutter is found among people who take Xyzal, especially for people who are female, 60+ old, and have been taking the drug for < 1 month.

The phase IV clinical study analyzes which people take Xyzal and have Atrial fibrillation/flutter. It was created by eHealthMe based on reports of 17,000 people who have side effects when taking Xyzal from the FDA and is updated regularly. You can use the study as a second opinion to make health care decisions.”

(See the link for the balance of the report).

Immediately I stopped the Xyzal, and in the past almost three months, I’ve had no incidence of Afib whatsoever.

Back to the headache…so I continued to research, hoping to find something to help as much as my efforts to resolve this pain in my face and forehead. I concluded that I most likely have occipital neuralgia, very similar to trigeminal neuralgia, but the symptoms are different.

Then, I researched treatment for occipital neuralgia, and many suggested awful drugs and surgery, neither of which appealed to me. But I kept coming across various acupressure treatments that may help such nerve pain in the head and face. One week ago, I started this process twice daily, once in the morning and again at night. It didn’t help right away.

On the third day, I noticed improvement; on day 4, I awoke with no pain. Today is day #3 without pain. I am hesitantly optimistic and fully understand I may have some bad days in the future and will continue with this process for as long as it takes, even if it is permanent.

Here is the link to Dr. Mandell’s facial and head acupressure video.

There are thousands of reports from reliable sources that extol the virtues of acupressure (and acupuncture) for various ailments, including reports from the Mayo Clinic and other such facilities of high regard.

When we think about it, doctors don’t have the time to research to the degree that a patient may when choosing to be an advocate for their health. No doctor could have spent the hours I spent looking for answers from reliable sources. I firmly believe that if traditional medicine can’t help us, perhaps it’s worthwhile to look for alternatives that may help us with difficult-to-treat situations.

Again, please see your medical professional for diagnosis and treatment, but if all else fails, there may be alternatives that work for you, as they’ve done for me (fingers crossed) in these two situations.

Be well.

Photos from ten years ago, July 13, 2013:

No photos were posted on this date ten years ago. See the story here.

“White Night” on the upcoming cruise…More photos from Tuscany…

The bell tower in Colognora is almost identical to our everyday view.

Today’s photos are from a post ten years ago today, while we were living in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy, found at this link.

    Hundreds of years later, Stone endures to provide excellent insulated housing for generations of homeowners.

This morning, it dawned on me that I didn’t have anything to wear for the upcoming “White Night” on the Azamara cruise beginning three weeks from today. I went through my neatly hung clothing in the closet, fully aware of what I had and didn’t have, and couldn’t find a single possibility.

I’m not really a dress person. I prefer to wear pants, especially these days with all the scars on my legs from the heart surgery. If pantihose were still fashionable, I could wear the opaque style, but I don’t want to look like an old lady wearing nylons (no offense intended to anyone of any age who still wears nylons). They could hide a multitude of flaws. (Only women will get this).

Many old houses show water damage and wear due to heavy precipitation and humidity in the Tuscan regions.

No, I haven’t lost all the weight I’d intended to while we’re in Florida. All I can say is it’s been hard to do while I’ve still had this dumb facial and head pain. It seems impossible right now to focus on losing weight when I’m trying everything possible to eliminate this chronic pain since I had Covid-19 15 months ago.

We were looking back from Bagni di Lucca to Colognora as we continued our journey to Pescia to load up on groceries and find a Barbieri (barbershop) for Tom. He hadn’t had a haircut since March in Belize.

Of course, I am a little apprehensive about getting Covid again going on these two cruises, but I am comforted by the fact that we hear less and less from our cruising readers that they’ve become ill with that virus. Passengers get other viruses on cruises, but now that we’re obsessed with hand washing and close contact, maybe we’ll be ok. It’s a risk we take to continue on with our lives of world travel.

This looks almost identical to the above photo of Colognora, but it’s the bell tower at Villa Basicillica, another village we visited today.

Anyway, back to the White Night issue. We want to participate, and Tom has white clothes that work for him. So this morning, I looked at the tags on two pairs of jeans that fit me well and tried to find the exact jeans in white online. It wasn’t as easy as I thought, but I finally succeeded, placed the order, and a pair of white jeans will arrive within five days.

Once they get here, I try them with one white shirt I have that may work, and if all is well, I’m good to go. If the shirt isn’t good, I’ll buy something on Amazon to arrive in a few days. Problem solved. I hope.

Old, abandoned property that most likely burned many ago. In the US, most burned-out structures would be torn down.

This morning, again, II slept late and feel better today. It seems that my head pain is less on the days I sleep more. I wish I could find another way to get some relief, but for now, I will accept this for whatever reason it helps. Once we get on the ship, I won’t sleep so late since we’ll want to go to breakfast in the dining room and begin our day aboard the ship, which is always fun for us.

It’s pouring rain again today. I’d hoped to go to Walgreen for a few things, but we’ll wait and go another day. We can’t believe how much it rains here. Neither of us had ever spent so much time in Florida in the summer months and had no idea as to the number of storms that roll through, day after day. We haven’t gone on our walk for a few days due to the weather but hopefully can resume soon.

Many years ago, the creek running through the village created an enticing backdrop for the many homes along its banks.

Today, again, we’ll stay in. We are never disappointed to stay in. We so enjoy our days and evenings whatever we do. We love the stimulation and adventure of traveling, but soon, we’ll be doing plenty of that. We’re also looking forward to seeing my cousin in Boston in September, my son in Nevada, and our three adult children and grandchildren in Minnesota. Since we began our travels, we’ve never stayed in Minnesota for a month. We’ll have plenty of time to spend with family and friends before we start our long journey to South America.

Be well.

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

The red paint slashed across the town’s name indicates leaving the village limits. We’d purchased a half-a-cart full of the freshest organic vegetables, grass-fed meats, locally made exquisite cheeses, and free-range eggs, enough to feed us for 14 days and nights. Why is it so much less than what we paid in the US, never less than $200 per week, using coupons and scrambling to get the most current specials? Who knows? For more photos, please click here.

Passport renewal issue!!!..Yikes!!!…Photos from ten years ago today…Mykonos, Greece…

This is Mykonos! Oh, my, how beautiful!
Although we were out last night at Brownwood Paddock Square, we don’t have any new photos to share. We’d already posted photos of this fun location, although we looked for photo ops throughout the evening. Thus, we’re sharing photos from our visit to the island of Mykonos, Greece, ten years ago today. We will never forget this special day as we walked for hours through the fascinating island of stark white and blue buildings, friendly people, and local charm. It couldn’t have been more exciting and fun.
Mykonos, as we walked along the shoreline.

We enjoyed being with a lovely couple we met from Quebec, Canada, Gerry, and Nicole, both with thick French accents, and they also spoke English quite well. We’d met them on the ship and spent much time with them, engaging in fun activities. It’s always special to meet new people on cruises, some of whom we’ve stayed in touch with over the years.

As for today’s headline, a few days ago, it received an email from the U.S. State Department about our renewal passport application that read as follows:

(Please excuse the line spacing. Since I copied and pasted this, I was unable to format it properly).

“Dear Ms. Lyman:
Thank you for your recent passport application. To continue processing your request, please provide the
The following information: Please submit your valid passport book. Our records indicate that you applied for a passport book in 2020. If you do not have that passport book and/or passport card in your possession, please complete, in detail, the
enclosed Form DS-64, Statement Regarding Lost or Stolen Passport, and mail the signed form to the address on this
letter. It is the policy of Passport Services to return any expired passport book and/or passport card to the
customer unless it is damaged or mutilated. To assist with processing your application, we must receive the requested information within ninety (90) days of the date shown in this letter. Please be advised that you may receive this information via email and a postal letter. Please respond to one request only. If the information is not received or is insufficient to establish your entitlement to a U.S. passport, your application may be denied, and your citizenship evidence will be returned. By law, the passport execution and application fees are non-refundable. For general passport information or to check the status of your passport application, please visit us online at travel.state.gov.


The narrow walkways through the shops and houses were enchanting at every turn.

Of course, as I breezed through this text, I panicked a little and then slowed down and read it more thoroughly before I said anything to Tom.

Upon applying for the passport renewal, we called CIBT, the company we’re using, and explained that:

a. Our ten-year passports expired in 2022.

b. Our four-year second passports were going to expire in January 2024.

Gerry, Nicole, our Canadian French-speaking new friends, and Tom outside this quaint little church.

Since we began traveling in 2012, we’ve had three passports so far:

  1. Our first 10-year passport – expired
  2. A second 2-year passport – expired
  3. A third 4-year year passport – expires in January 2024

As we’ve explained in the past, we got second passports to enable us to mail in one of the passports when applying for visas (when required) and still have a valid passport in our possession which should always be the case. One should never be in a foreign country without a valid passport in their possession.

When we initially spoke to the online rep, we asked which passport we should mail to them; the expired ten-year or the active four-year. We were each applying for a 10-year renewal. They instructed us to send in the expired ten-year passports, which we did, which our multiple required documents.

We can’t wait to buy fresh produce in Tuscany in one week as we prepare to cook for ourselves! Mykonos didn’t disappoint.

Later, we were assigned a new rep, Arturo, and he assumed we had everything needed to apply for the renewal. This was incorrect. We should have sent in our active four-year passports with the application documents. I called Arturo immediately, and he apologized for the misunderstanding.

He sent me an email with a new FedEx paid label, which we needed to get to the FedEx store as soon as possible and mail him the four-year passport we did on Friday morning. He will receive them on Monday and will continue with the application process, assuring us we shouldn’t worry.

We’ll wait and see when we’ll get the new passports within a few weeks. We are glad we started this process so much earlier than our June 20 appointment. We feel confident, in any case, we’ll have the passports in plenty of time for our departure on July 28.

Tonight we’re going to the Havana Country Club for dinner. It looks like a great place to go on a Saturday night, and the menu looks good for both of us. Tomorrow, we’ll share photos.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, June 10, 2013:

An occasional stop was relaxing after the steep walk up the hilly roads. For more photos, please click here.

Issues with our passport applications…Photos from recent visit to Spanish Springs Town Square

Beer is very popular in The Villages to warrant a beer store, as shown in Spanish Springs Town Square.

Yesterday afternoon, we received an email from Arturo, a representative from CIBT, that our paperwork had been received and there were some issues, as shown below:

  1. “Flight itinerary must be confirmed and up to date with your name on the form showing that you are the passenger for the State Department to process your passport in a rush time frame. ( dates, country traveling to with dates within 14 days of travel. )
  2. Please upload a photo. The photo must be taken facing forward with a neutral expression and from the waist up (this will help me adjust the photo to fit the State Department criteria ). Please take the photo against a white wall or background and upload it so I can work with it.
  3. The Letter of Authorization is a legal government document, and the courier company you wrote down is not what is in the top right corner. You wrote FEDEX, and it should be VISA SERVICES OF HOUSTON, as is posted in the upper right corner of the letter.”
Typical scene in a town square.

Of course, we panicked, thinking we would have problems promptly correcting these issues. Immediately we got to work and fixed #3, which meant we had to reprint the blank document, fill it out and sign it, scan it, and print one copy of the original document.

Previously shown photo in Spanish Springs Town Square.

Thank goodness we had a good scanner app on my phone, Mobile Scanner, which I downloaded a few months ago. If a scan is slightly lopsided, the app will adjust it and make it straight. It’s pretty easy to use after a few minutes of figuring it out. We got the forms redone and then realized I had written the date wrong on my form by not showing the year as 2023 but instead writing 5/31/23. This wouldn’t be good enough, so I did the entire process all over again. There’s no margin for error on these forms.

As for #1, that was an issue. When we prepared the original documents, we booked a flight, but the requirements stated our travel dates had to be within two weeks of filing for the renewals. We submitted that flight schedule but recently canceled it when our dates changed.

The busy bar in Amerikana Bar & Grill in Spanish Springs. We like this restaurant and bar, but it’s a long drive in the golf cart. We’ll probably try it one day soon.

Then, when CIBT received the flight schedule, they tried to verify the booking, and when it wasn’t verifiable, Arturo sent us this requirement in the objections to our file. Only yesterday, we booked a flight and hotel for our departure from Florida to Scotland on July 28, which didn’t comply with the two-week requirement.

It was too risky for us to have a new appointment with CIBT to finalize our documents. With the US State Department backed up with passports and renewals for months, we worried something could go wrong and we wouldn’t get the passports back in time for our departure. We’d be in big trouble then!

This guy with his arms spread had a thick accent, was from Tunisia, and was very friendly to us. He’s lived in The Villages for years.

After speaking to Arturo yesterday afternoon after receiving his email with the required changes, he assured us that he’d get everything processed immediately and not to worry about the two-week requirement. Whew! We could breathe easily.

For point #2, the passport photos we had taken at a Walgreen store in the US during our last visit were blurry and wouldn’t work. Using my phone, we took new photos. I have never seen such awful images of either of us, but once we submitted them to Arturo, he said they were fine, and he’d get them to work to the satisfaction of the US State Department.

My entree was a Greek salad with grilled chicken and pepperoncini. It was delicious.

This morning, after breakfast at Bob Evans Restaurant in Colony Square, we headed to the FedEx store in the golf cart and sent in the replacement documents as required, and we should be good to go. Now, we are waiting to hear if everything is OK once Arturo receives the packet of documents in the next 24 hours.

We stopped for petrol for the golf cart. We’ve used the golf cart many times, and gosh, it doesn’t use much fuel! The gas gauge isn’t working, so we had no idea how much fuel we’d need other than looking down the hole. As it turned out, we only needed to add a little over one gallon for $4.00.

Tom’s Rueben sandwich had a side of potato salad and a pickle. He enjoyed it.

After the pleasant drive this morning, we have no doubt we’ll be able to head to any of the town squares, even the furthest from us at Spanish Springs, which appears to be a 40 minutes drive, according to the app for the golf cart driving directions on my phone.

The once-monthly cleaner, Jennifer, arrived today to clean the house while we were out. By the time we returned, she was almost done, and the house, although perfectly tidy when she arrived, felt fresh and clean. We’ve kept everything organized and clean, but a deep cleaning was welcome. She spent almost three hours here.

After our huge breakfast, we’ll have a light dinner tonight and enjoy our evening at the house; with peace of mind, we’ve completed the passport renewal applications as required.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, June 1, 2013:

No photos were posted on this date, but we posted a story about the imminent danger of visiting the Pyramids from the US State Department. See the post here.