Fun evening with Lyman family members…

In Madeira, the musical vegetable truck came by a few times a week. We were always ready to greet him and make our fresh-from-the-farm purchases.

Yesterday afternoon, in the pouring rain, we embarked on the 40-minute drive to Anoka to Billy’s Bar & Grill for the weekly Lyman family get-together. Often, the group consists of Tom’s sisters, Mary Ellen (husband Eugene), Colleen, Patty, and Margie. With us included, there’s often the seven. (Tom has two more sisters, Rita in South Dakota and a nun, Sister Beth, in Milwaukee).

At times, other family members, such as adult nieces and nephews, daughter Tammy, Tracy, and grandson Vincent, join us. Yesterday, there were 14, including those mentioned above seven, plus four generations for some: even Tom’s great-grandniece, almost two-year-old adorable Addison.

However, this group is only the tip of the iceberg for the Lyman family. When they all get together, it could easily be over 100 relatives. It’s not easy to get everyone together, but at times, it gets close to being the full group on special occasions.

The Lymans are lovely people, warm, friendly, and very close. There is never any evidence of animosity. They all get along well. Conversing with any of them is filled with wonderful stories and good humor, and they easily invite two-way conversations that never include gossip or negative comments about one another.

I sat at the round table with Tom on my left and sister-in-law Margie on my right. We consistently arrive at 3:30 pm, in time for happy hour. Most enjoy a cocktail or two, but no one drinks in excess, and everyone figures out safe ways to drive home.

It feels fantastic to be a part of this sizeable group of people when I come from a small family: my sister, my two sons, and their girlfriends, my three grandchildren, and on my father’s side of the family, my cousin Phyllis and her two adult daughters whom, unfortunately, I rarely see. We haven’t all been together in years.

Yesterday, as the size of the group expanded as more arrived, extra tables were added, and we could all sit together. Some of them moved from one seat to another to converse with others. It was pretty fun, to say the least. By about 6:30, we all began to filter out and head to our respective homes. It was still raining hard, and no plans were made for the remainder of the evening.

Once we arrived back in Eden Prairie, Tom dropped me off at a liquor store to see if I could find low-alcohol wine. After asking for help, I found white and red, of which I purchased two. It is funny how readily available low-alcohol wine is in South Africa, with few options in the US.

After the liquor store, we headed to Cub Foods so I could purchase a few items to round out what we had on hand. We plan to dine in tonight and tomorrow night. On Monday afternoon, after my lunch with old friend and business partner Theresa in Coon Rapids, we’ll head to Mary and Eugene’s to play Buck Euchre. Nephew Kevin is coming to town and always enjoys playing cards with us. No doubt, we’ll have another enjoyable evening.

During this extended period in the US, we’re having a great time with family and friends. On past visits, we stayed for two to three weeks, but now, with the remainder of the summer before us, we’ll have plenty of time for more enjoyable times ahead.

Thanks for all the positive feedback after yesterday’s post, which encouraged us to keep posting, even during these quiet times, as long as it doesn’t cause stress. No, it doesn’t cause stress. It’s a joyful experience sharing our lives with all of you each and every day!

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, June 1, 2014:

Many little shops were found on the side streets of Ribeira Brava, Madeira. For more photos, please click here.

Part 3…Exciting birthday plans revealed…This is the fifth time my birthday was spent in the bush!…

Us at the bar at Jabula on the night of my 74th birthday.

This morning, we’re off to Komati for groceries, a stop at the pharmacy, and a shoe repair shop suggested by friend Janet at my birthday dinner at Jabula on Sunday night. Tom has a favorite pair of Cole Haan loafers he’d like to have repaired since that style is no longer available.

Last night we were busy at the house. Tom noticed some price changes for future Azamara cruises, and by calling waiting on hold for almost an hour, he was able to save us another US $1500, ZAR 22809. But, instead of lowering the prices of the cruises, they have us US $500, ZAR 7603, additional cabin credit on three of the cruises.

Dawn had set up the table with decorations and lovely place settings for our dinner for ten. One couple couldn’t come due to the husband being in hospital.

What benefit is there with additional cabin credit? Since we wanted to get the best possible price, we booked the cruise without perks, such as free drinks and WiFi. Overall, we were ahead by removing these and going with the lower pricing. With these cabin credits, which will now be US $1400, ZAR 21265, to US $1500, ZAR 22809, we can use the cabin credit for WiFi and drink packages if we choose.

Since neither of us drinks alcohol during the day, generally, it doesn’t pay to use a drink package when some drinks are allowed at certain times and events, such as wine during meals on the Azamara cruises. But Tom doesn’t drink wine, so figure that out once we’re on board and see the drink prices.

Danie, Louise, Rita, Steve, Janet, Mick, Lynne, Tom, me, and Gerhard from the left. What a fine group of people!!

Our upcoming cruise is on a Celebrity ship. We won’t know if they will re-start the priority club cocktail hour each evening, which had been suspended due to the pandemic. Today, we heard that most cruise lines are doing away with masking requirements. Perhaps in the next six weeks, more Covid related restrictions will be eased.

We wanted to share the photos and events from my birthday party on Sunday night. First off, Dawn did a fantastic job of ensuring everything was perfect, which is always the case whenever we are there. The decorations, the table setting, the service, and the food were exemplary.

Tom’s usual plate of ribs with white rice and creamed spinach.

There was never a dull moment. David,  Jabula‘s new assistant manager, replacing Lyn, who moved on to other ventures, showed up during sundowner time, bringing me a beautiful gift of body product! Dawn, the owner, had another gorgeous collection of bath products. Louise and Danie went over the top with the elephant interaction and a bottle of my favorite wine.

Rita and Gerhard lavished me with local African jewelry, which I love,  and a new external hard drive (which we desperately needed) loaded with dozens of recent movies! How thoughtful was all of that!

Lynne’s espetada, barbecued meat served on a tall skewer.

I’d told the group “no gifts,” but that request isn’t always observed. I was grateful to have the eight guests at our table. All I wanted from Tom was to host the dinner for ten, including drinks, bottles of wine, and other beverages, meals, and tips. Dawn served complimentary shooters after dinner. The entire bill with everything included was US $291.64, ZAR 4418!!! There is nowhere in the world that we could host ten people for this reasonable cost with exceptional food, drinks, service, and ambiance.

The restaurant usually closes at 8:30 pm, 2030 hrs, on Sundays. After a delightful evening of lively conversation and endless laughter, we all didn’t leave until 10:00 pm, 2200 hrs. It couldn’t have been more fun!

Even while dining out, wildlife comes to visit. In this case, it was a giant grasshopper on the salt shaker.

Back at the house, we both couldn’t stop reeling over the fun day and evening. I couldn’t wait to start preparing posts with the photos from such a memorable birthday. Thank you to our friends who shared this day with me, with us, and so many of our readers who wrote to extend their birthday greetings. Wow! How lucky am I???

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, February 22, 2021:

Fred and Ethel. Fred is lying down. Notice warts on his face, and Ethel is standing behind him. She had no facial warts, typical for females. For more photos, please click here.

Best countries in the world to visit, according to popular travel magazine…How many have we visited?…Funny video!…

Mongooses came up to the door to ask for some eggs.
Please click this link to see a fun video we made:
It was a pleasant Saturday evening. Our friend and author, Alan Holmes, again spent the evening with us on a hot and “buggie” night on the veranda. After all the rain these past few weeks, the vegetation pond in the garden with puddles of water everywhere, the “mozzies” were on a rampage. I couldn’t load up on enough repellent. Amid the swarms of bugs, we enjoyed yet another evening on the veranda with our new friend.
On top of that, the stink bugs have infested the area, soon to disappear, and they, too, were underfoot, on our clothing, and in our faces from time to time. We were thrilled to spot a few dung beetles on the table on the veranda, but without their massive ball of dung, we didn’t attempt any photos in the dark.
As hot and humid as it was, few animals came to call. From what we’ve seen, most of the wildlife is terrified of thunder and lightning. With the prospect of rainstorms on the horizon, they tend to hunker down undercover in the parkland and other more sheltered areas. Only us crazy humans stay outdoors until wind-driven rain impairs our comfort on the veranda until we wander indoors.
Lots of mongooses stopped by for eggs.
Yesterday, according to their readers, Tom forwarded an article to me from Conde Nast Traveler magazine about the best countries to visit in 2020. We carefully perused this article to discover how many of these countries we’ve seen on the list as shown listed below, in order of preference by their readers. We’ve placed a checkmark next to those we have been to over the past eight-plus years of world travel.
1. Italy √
2. Sri Lanka
3. Portugal √
4. Japan
5. Greece √
6. Indonesia √
7. Thailand √
8.  South Africa √
9.  Vietnam √
10  Mexico √
11. Ireland √
12. Bhutan
13. Jamaica
14. Peru √
15. Malaysia √
16. Columbia √
17. Israel
18. Turkey √
19. New Zealand √
20. India √
In carefully reviewing this list, we found we have been to 15 of the 20 countries, except for Sri Lanka, Japan, Bhutan, Jamaica, and Israel. We hope to visit sometime in the future, depending on the degree to which Covid-19 impedes future travel. We’re scheduled to sail on a few cruises around Japan in 2022, but who knows if they’ll sail by that time?
Tom was bringing out the scrambled eggs in the flat pan while they were all waiting patiently.
We have no idea what the future holds. Besides the obvious restrictions imposed due to Covid-19, our age and ongoing ability to travel will be a primary factor. Based on how we feel now, it’s entirely possible we can continue for years to come. However, as we have learned, regardless of how hard we work at achieving optimum health, health issues may arise over which we have little control.
Recently, a kind reader wrote and asked if we had a complete itinerary of our travels since the onset. I felt terrible explaining that based on variables at any given time, our itineraries are piecemeal at this point, often grouped into one or two-year itineraries.
I’d like to have put that together for him, but based on all the time I have spent working on my laptop over the past year, I don’t have it in me to begin such a lofty goal at this point. If we are fortunate to make it to the 10-year mark, I plan to tackle such a project at that time.
After eating the scrambled raw eggs in the pan, a few get into the pan for scraps. Note the tiny one.
In the interim, our travel map on the right side of our home page, under the heading “Map Our Travels,” only requires a single click to see when and where we’ve traveled since 2012. Tom has been diligent in keeping this map updated regularly, which will be highly instrumental when the time comes to map out the entire ten years.
In October 2022, the 10th anniversary of our world travels, we’ll tackle that project a mere 20 months from now how the time has flown. We would never have imagined traveling. We’d travel for such an extended period. But, now, after wasting, albeit safely, almost 10% of our travel time in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, we have an entirely different perspective of how precious every day was, is, and will be in the future.
We’re grateful for each day of life, each day spent together, each day of exploring the world, its people, its cultures, and its wildlife and nature. Without a doubt, it’s been a gift, one we will joyfully treasure for as long as we can continue.
Stay safe, wear a mask, social distance, and wash and sanitize your hands. May your life and the lives of your loved ones be long and fruitful in this fantastic world.
Photo from one year ago today, February 7, 2020:
The photos posted on this date, one year ago, are a compilation of those we’d taken on day 2 in the following palaces: City Palace, the largest in the state of Rajasthan; Chimi Mahal; Mori Mahal and the spectacular Zenana Mahal; The Crystal Gallery at Darbar Hall and more. For more, please click here.

Day #264 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Will we take the COVID-19 vaccine?…

We knew we had to be very cautious not only for our safety but also for his when this adorable zebra climbed the slippery steps to see what we had for him. If we startled him or told him to get down, he could have broken a leg on the slick tiles of the stairs to the veranda. Instead, we tossed pellets on the ground near the bottom of the steps.

Today’s photos are from this date in 2018 while living in Marloth Park, South Africa. We realize these photos may be redundant, but we couldn’t resist sharing these fun photos. For more, please click here.

Yesterday and again this morning, I had some work to do with one of our website’s advertisers and ran into a glitch on their site which kept me in a tizzy for two hours. I’ve contacted our web people to help, but they aren’t available this weekend. It will have to wait until Monday. It’s the nature of the beast.

We were busy working on our laptops and didn’t realize what was happening until we saw this zebra climbing up the veranda steps.

Speaking of beasts, I was definitely in the mood for some more “feel good” hormones, as mentioned in yesterday’s post here, smiling and laughing over old photos from Marloth Park in 2018. Yes, I’ve thought quite a bit about the possible redundancy of all the upcoming future photos when, again, we’ll be living in the bush among the wildlife.

Lately, while walking the corridors, I’ve been thinking of ways to add more exciting photos of that which we encounter living in the bush. The unusual shots, such as today’s repeated photos, add to the uniqueness and innovation. Regardless of how hot and “buggie” it is outdoors on the veranda at our new location, we plan to spend our days and nights outdoors, searching for photo ops such as those included today.

Just like that, he was on the veranda. The only reason we think this happened is that many residents feed the zebras on their ground-level verandas. 

It’s those special occasions that add so much to our experiences. Then again, for us, the simple, less interesting visits by wildlife add to our experiences daily. Of course, we’ll be venturing into Kruger National Park at least once a week when again, we’ll purchase an annual entrance pass, taking many photos of the “Big Five” and more.

Also, from time to time, we’ll head to the village of Komatipoort to shop but will avoid going more often than is necessary, due to COVID-19, which is more prevalent in the town than where we’ll live, which is 25 minutes away in the bush.

We gave him time to fulfill his curiosity, whispering, and with confidence.

As of now, we’ve booked our required COVID-19 PCR test with a local lab that will come to our hotel on January 10, 2021, between 8:00, am and 4:00 pm. We’ll have the results in our email within eight hours, which we’ll have the hotel print, and we’ll bring to the airport as required by Emirates Airlines and South Africa for entry without quarantine.

Several of our readers have written asking if we will be taking the COVID-19 vaccine. We are considering it, especially if it’s required for us to continue to travel. It won’t be available in India by the time we leave in January but, we expect we’ll be able to get it at some point in South Africa, either Dr. Theo’s office or the pharmacy in Komatipoort. We’ll see how that rolls out.

It was a shock to see him on the veranda, but we appreciated the photo op!

This plan will give us time to see if the vaccine is safe for our ages and my health conditions that include allergies, which, based on some news (accurate or not) that stated that those with allergies might not be good candidates. At least we’ll have time to figure it out when we observe what’s happening to recipients of the vaccines in the US and worldwide.

Yes, if it proves safe and effective, I’d enjoy the peace of mind after having the vaccine. After all, we’ve had numerous vaccines protecting us in our travels. One more won’t be much different if it is safe. However, it’s not an easy decision for any of us when many have opinions about the efficacy and safety of vaccines in general. Each of us can only choose a decision based on our own opinions and health, along with the views of our medical professionals.

He let out a loud whinny and took off for the pellets we tendered at the bottom of the steps. It was quite a pleasant visit, one we’ll never forget.

Tom awoke this morning and said, “Good morning, Sweetie. Guess what? It’s the weekend!” Duh?

Thirty-two days and counting.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, December 12, 2019:

It was fun to sit by the firepit with Tom’s sisters, spouses, and other residents in the RV park in Apache Junction, Arizona. For more, please click here.

Day #187 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Lockdown weight gain?…

At long last, we reached the end of the path. We were thrilled to have the sea in front of us once again. We didn’t take the time to take photos of each other. Pouring sweat in the excessive humidity and heat, neither of us was “photo-ready.”

Today’s photos are from the post on this date in 2013, while we lived in Diani Beach, Kenya. For more on this date, please click here.

It’s Saturday morning. We didn’t wake up until 9:00 am, which is unusual for us. With breakfast out of the way and 2 of 5 miles already tackled from walking the corridors, we’re both ready to take on another day. What the day holds remains to be seen.

As we approached the exit gate from our neighborhood, Nancy, the daytime guard, greeted us both with a warm hug. At night security is beefed up when more security risks are prevalent.

Today, I’ll spend more time working on the third 2000 word post, which I promised our web developer I’d have done by Monday. After that, there are only two more to go. This next post revolves around how we’ve traveled the world living a low carb/ketogenic diet, a request from many readers who’ve written over the past year.

For our long-term readers, you will have read this information over and over again. But, over the years, we’ve acquired countless new readers, many of whom are curious about this way of eating regarding their health and well-being and if this may work for them. It’s not a diet. It’s a lifetime commitment.

On the walk to the beach access, these two women were carrying what appeared to be heavy loads atop their heads, a common site in Kenya.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned I’d been eating too many carbs with the red sauces I was ordering on my chicken. With boredom at the forefront, the supposed sauces were gluten-free, starch-free, grain-free, and sugar-free. But I was deluding myself. The excess carbs were causing the very inflammation and high blood sugar that not only caused the pain to return but also caused me to gain weight, a sure-fire way to determine my blood sugar was high. I could barely walk.

Three weeks later, by avoiding the thick red sauces, the pain is diminished by 65%, but I still have a way to go. I feel confident that I’ll continue to notice an improvement in time, maybe a month or more. In the interim, I’ve lost the extra pounds I’d gained from eating the curry and makhani sauces over five months, both of which must have had ingredients I cannot eat.

Reaching the beginning of the beach access, it was impossible to see how far we’d have to walk to get to the sea. This lonely stretch would be dangerous to travel at night, which of course, we won’t do. We always took a cab to dine at any of the restaurants along the coast.

With the language barrier, it’s been challenging to explain my way of eating to the cooks. The only solution has been to change my food orders, the past few weeks to the following:

  • Breakfast: two hard-boiled eggs, two pieces of crispy bacon
  • Dinner: two slices of grilled, boneless, skinless chicken, basted with butter and sauteed mushrooms and broccoli (I change the vegetables I select every few days)
    In places, the path to the beach was filled with flowers.

That’s all I eat each day. Not much food. I should be losing weight like crazy, but after the heart surgery, I gained 20 pounds and have struggled to lose it. Now, I have hope that I’ll lose it. Walking 5 miles, 8 km, a day hasn’t been attributed to any weight loss whatsoever. This doesn’t surprise me. I never lost weight from working out alone.

My goal is to fit into the few items of clothing I have left and feel more fit and healthy. Now with only 15 pounds to go, I feel more confident I can accomplish this while continuing to reduce the degree of pain while walking over the next few months while still in lockdown.

The sea, the clouds, and the mystery of ominous clouds rolling in left us in awe with our mouths agape.

Of course, when we can get out of India and cook for ourselves, I’ll have more options and control over what I’m eating. Here, it’s not been easy with so few appropriate options. Tom has been eating a relatively unhealthy dinner each evening, and he too looks forward to some home-cooked meals sometime in the future.

I’ve read over and over again. Many people have struggled to maintain, or improve, their health while in lockdown. Thank goodness we have had no access to snacks or treats during these six months in lockdown. It sure is easy to overeat while bored.

Miles of sandy beach stretched in front of us on the Indian Ocean. The white sand was the softest sand we’d ever walked, our feet sinking in several inches with each step. As a result, walking was laborious, especially in the heat and humidity. This didn’t deter us. We forged ahead.

Now, as I wrap this up, I’ll head to walk my next mile, and then when back in the room, get back to continue working on that tricky 2000 word post.

Have a pleasant Saturday and weekend!

Photos from one year ago today, September 26, 2019:

In the rain, Tom was using the wheelbarrow to bring the wood to Pond Cottage in Devon, England. For more photos, please click here.
Day #164 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Busy day today…

Day #164 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Busy day today…

We can often count on our routine to get us through another day, and in part, today won’t be much different. Add a few new tasks, and suddenly I feel busy, as we may have been in times before COVID-19.

Today’s photos were from this date in 2014 when our ship docked in England, enabling us to take a tour of Stonehenge. See this link for details.

Alternate view of Stonehenge.

I can’t wait for the busy days in the future once we leave India, including cooking, laundry, household tasks, and sightseeing. Heading out every two days to take photos added to our level of activity, and of course, weekly trips for shopping and other errands often occupied our days.

An additional rock had been discovered.

At this point, we realize and accept we may not be able to get back into South Africa until after the first of the year. Of course, if we ever get back to Marloth Park, we will easily spend an entire day fussing over the visiting wildlife, chopping carrots and apples for them, and later chopping and dicing vegetables for our meals. Gosh, I miss all of that.

Tom at Stonehenge.

But, as time passes, we can see other countries may be possible for us while we wait for the borders to open in S.A. At this point, it’s all about being able to fly out of India and head to a country close in or close to the African continent.

Me, at Stonehenge. It was raining, and we were fairly soaked.

It would have been possible to walk my goal of 10,000 steps a day simply by partaking in day-to-day activities in our old lives. It has taken several months for me to build the stamina that I lost after heart surgery. Still, finally, all these months later, I genuinely believe I will be able to go forward in a way similar to life before February 2019.

When I think back to a year ago, while we were in Falmouth, Cornwall, England, I had a terrible time walking to the local restaurant/pub, all uphill. Now, it would be considerably more manageable. For us, exercising has been an unexpected benefit of being in lockdown, basically forcing us to get moving instead of sitting all day.

Birds at Stonehenge.

Back to today’s photos. The June 2020 discoveries were made by archaeologists regarding the origination of these unusual rock formations as described here from this article:

“June 22, 2020: The mystery near and around Stonehenge keeps growing. According to an announcement from the University of Bradford, the latest revelation is the discovery of a ring of at least 20 prehistoric shafts about 2 miles from the famous Neolithic site of immense upright stones.

‘Astonishing discovery’ near Stonehenge offers new insight into Neolithic ancestors. Research on the pits at Durrington was undertaken by a consortium of archaeologists as part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project. #DurringtonPits @gaffney_v

Archaeologists say the “astonishing” shafts in Durrington Walls date back to 2500 B.C. and form a circle more than 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) in diameter. Each measure up to 10 meters (33 feet) in diameter and 5 meters (16 feet) deep.

Researchers say there may have been more than 30 of the shafts at one time.

Alternate view.

“The area around Stonehenge is among the most studied archaeological landscapes on Earth, and, remarkably, the application of new technology can still lead to the discovery of such a massive prehistoric structure which, currently, is significantly larger than any comparative prehistoric monument that we know of in Britain, at least,” said Professor Vincent Gaffney of the University of Bradford.

View from the opposite side.

The research was conducted by a consortium of archaeologists as part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project. The University of Bradford was the lead institution, joined by Vienna’s Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology; the Universities of Birmingham, St. Andrews and Warwick; the University of Wales Trinity Saint Davids; and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre at the University of Glasgow.”

Large stone recovered from the area to illustrate the massive size of the stones.

This discovery doesn’t definitively explain how the rock formations were constructed. Still, it perhaps gives future scientists a little more information to add to their repertoire of data accumulated over the past few centuries. It will be interesting to see if more information rises to the surface in our lifetime.

Zoom in to read this text of the skeletal remains of a man found in Stonehenge.

In any case, we certainly enjoyed seeing the famous rock formations when we were allowed to walk on a paved pathway surrounding the area. For more on this, please see our post from September 3, 2014, here.

More skeletal remains were found in Stonehenge.

For today, I’m glad I had the above information to add to today’s post since I’m in somewhat of a rush to get to work on some tasks, details of which we’ll share later.

Have a pleasant day.

Photo from one year ago today, September 3, 2019:

Entrance to the Church of St. Mylor in the sleepy town of Mylor, Cornwall. For more photos, please click here.

Happy 4th of July to all Americans…Dinner with more friends…Three days and counting…Saying goodbye has begun…

With the bright sun behind us, this photo didn’t come out too well, plus our plates of food look twice as big as they were.

I believe I met Lisa in 1990 and her husband Brian (her then-boyfriend) a short time later. The three of us became fast friends. In 1991, I met Tom, and he too fell into the groove of this good friendship with this lovely couple.

They lived in Minnesota, but after a few years, they moved to Las Vegas. We stayed in touch. Over the years, with son Richard residing in Henderson, Nevada, it became an ordinary course of action to see them when we visited Richard and my sister Susan who moved to Las Vegas many years ago.

Maynard’s on Lake Minnetonka has remained a popular lakeside restaurant since we left. We had a reservation, but outdoor seating wasn’t available when we arrived at 5:30 pm. Instead, the four of us dined indoors in a comfortable booth.

For those living outside the US, Henderson is an upscale less-hurried, and less-gambling-orientated suburb of Las Vegas, although the two cities are next door to one another. We’ll include more about Henderson after we get settled upon our pending arrival in three days.

Our friends, Lisa and Brian, drove from Wisconsin to have dinner with us on Sunday night.  Thank you both for coming to hang out with us.

In 2009, a year before I retired, I went to Henderson to help my son Richard with his booming real estate business. The market had crashed the prior year but morphed into an outrageously active marketplace for buyers and investors to purchase everything they could get their hands on.

Tom ordered the Kung Pao Chicken, which he found to be too spicy for his taste.

That wasn’t the case in Minnesota, which was barely chugging along after the economy had crashed. I left my share of our real estate company in the trustworthy hands of my business partner Theresa, while I took off for five months to help Richard.

We piled my car with the “stuff” I’d need for such an extended stay, including my beloved Australian Terrier Willie, and drove from Minnesota to Nevada, staying at dog-friendly hotels along the way. Willie immediately learned that if he knocked on the car door, we’d stop the car so he could go “potty.” I loved that dog!

I ordered the usual salad that has seen me through dining out every night in Minnesota, a variation of a Cobb Salad; chicken, bacon, hard-boiled egg, tomatoes, onions, olives with a side of sour cream. The blue cheese was missing, but I didn’t squeal.

The plan was for me to live with Richard while we worked together during that extended period. Moms and adult sons don’t necessarily make the best “roommates,” but we did our best and stayed out of each other’s way. 

The interaction between Willie and Richard’s pug Monty (now in doggie heaven along with Willie) created many laugh-worthy experiences we both still treasure today. 

Lisa ordered the chicken lettuce wraps. This would most likely have worked for me, but I was hungry, and this wasn’t enough food after not eating for almost 12 hours.

After we arrived and unpacked the car, Tom flew back to Minnesota on Halloween 2009 in time to hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters who flocked to our neighborhood for the generous offerings from us and our friend/neighbors for their ambitious hike to our remote private road.

Upon my arrival, I had to apply for a Nevada real estate broker’s license, attending school, and taking a test. It took an entire month for the license to come through.

During these five months, I spent considerable time with Lisa and Brian, my only friends living in Las Vegas.  Tom flew back and forth on a few occasions to see me as we stayed in close touch by phone. It was a long five months being apart from one another.

Brian ordered the plain broiled chicken breasts with a baked potato.

Tom flew out for his birthday (December 23rd) and the Christmas holiday at Christmas that year. We had dinner at Lisa and Brian’s beautiful home, helping to prepare a few dishes while thoroughly enjoying spending the holiday with them and other friends.

When the five months ended, Willie and I returned to Minnesota, happy to be back with Tom, our home, and other family and friends. Being away for so long wasn’t easy.

Before leaving to travel the world in 2012, we spent some time in Nevada, again over the Christmas holiday, while establishing our Nevada residency. We got our Nevada driver’s licenses and spent quality time with family. It was during this period and we had a few opportunities to be with Lisa and Brian again.

After we’d left to travel, they moved back to the Midwest, this time in Wisconsin, to be near family. We hadn’t seen them until they joined us at the friend/readers Meet & Greet several weeks ago and then again on Sunday night. At the end of the evening, we all hugged a warm goodbye, knowing someday in the future, we’ll all be together again.

This morning son Greg, Camille, and three grandchildren came for breakfast at our hotel. We had a fabulous breakfast together with lots of delightful chatter. Later today, at 6:00 pm, we’ll meet them for dinner at our favorite restaurant, after which we’ll all say goodbye. The process has begun…

Photo from one year ago today, July 4, 2016:

As a renowned international business center, there are many high-rise office buildings in Singapore. For more photos, please click here.

Trains, planes and automobiles…A holiday train brings back memories…

We run outside each time we see the Tas Rail train coming, hoping it is the one with the Christmas light.

The frequent research, we regularly conduct, required for various forms of transportation from location to location, has made us keenly aware and curious when we spot a train clanking along the tracks, a ship at a distance out to sea or an airplane overhead taking off from a nearby airport.

Transportation of many types includes car rental (often for a three-month contract), cruises, flights, taxi fares, a casual ferry or a bus trip. Researching and utilizing these means of travel adds considerable time and effort as we arrange, coordinate and expense as part of our overall world travel plan.

Tom counted the cars for up to 17 doubles/ two packs or 34 car lengths.        All he has seen to date are containers/boxes but no box cars.

Shortly after we arrived in Penguin, Tasmania nine days ago, one of the first things we noticed was the fact that our vacation rental located across the street from the beach also included a passing train several times each day.

After more than 42 years of “working on the railway” Tom’s curiosity was piqued while I watched him pass into a state of wonder and awe. Who doesn’t enjoy seeing a train pass, especially when not tied up in traffic at a crossing?

The Tas Rail track is a narrow gauge, 3′ feet, 6 inches (1,067 mm) which is smaller than many tracks throughout the world.

Carefully observing its comings and goings, it appears it passes three times a day and once during the night. None of us is disturbed overnight by the proximity and only heard it when we were already awake.

On a few occasions over the past nine days, we noticed a train locomotive passing by adorned with sparkling Christmas lights. We keep trying to get a photo of this. By the time we hear the whistle, get the camera and go outside, it’s over. I must add, we are more than a little determined to capture the photo. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it just a Christmas thing.

We’ve enjoyed watching the train “heading round the bend.”

Long ago, when we decided to travel the world, there were many changes we had to make to accommodate this unusual lifestyle, a life without a home. That included no more Christmas trees, giving each other presents and sending Christmas cards.

Based on our way of eating for both health and weight maintenance (we can’t head to the guest room closet to pull out clothing one size larger nor can we risk not fitting into our current minimal wardrobe), we no longer bake holiday treats, sharing them with family and friends while we snack on a fair share of our own. 

Tom says that most trains no longer have a traditional caboose, instead using what is called a FRED (freight rear end device).

For years, I made dog treats as gifts in the shapes of dog bones and terriers including batches for our own furry beasts. No longer do we/can we have a dog to call our own. We left that option behind long ago.

Although we left all of these and more holiday traditions in the past, we still feel the holiday spirit in our hearts. It doesn’t take a lighted tree with a plethora of beautifully wrapped gifts beneath, a stack of receiving cards or the smell of Christmas cookies baking in the oven to instill the holiday spirit within us.

The Penguin depot is no longer used for the trains instead its utilized as an event venue.

Perhaps the appearance of the lighted train for us, is like a visit from Santa or a reminder of times past which we’ll always treasure; the times we spent with our loved ones, celebrations we had with our friends. 

Do we have any regrets during this time of the year?  None, none at all. We haven’t lost our connection with the meaning of Christmas nor other holidays throughout the year. 

The day we picked up the Tasmanian rental car that silly floppy storage piece was broken. We took a dated photo in the event the car rental company blames us for this. These things always seem to fall apart. What’s the deal? All of our luggage is shown in this photo except for two medium sized (carry on) wheeling duffel bags.

For us, every day is a celebration, a holiday in this life we’ve chosen, a gift we never fail to appreciate, a gift which remains in our hearts and minds in childlike wonder. Who we are, whom we love and who we’ll become in the years to come travels well. 

As for the lighted train, we’ll be watching and joyfully sharing the photo. 

Happy holidays to those who celebrate this season and happy life to all!

Photo from one year ago today, December 13, 2015:

The sun was already behind this hill when we arrived at the Uprising Restaurant in Pacific Harbour, Fiji but the colors remained long enough for a few shots. For more details, please click here.

Bad news keeps coming and coming…How do we handle the risks?

Overall, the neighborhood in which we’re living has newer single family homes.  However, the area contains a number of modest living and working environments such as this we pass on the way to our villa.

It’s hard not to watch the news on TV when we have English speaking news here in Phuket. From terrorism to plane crashes to political hoopla, the negative keeps coming and coming.

One might think it’s easy to isolate ourselves from world affairs while living outside of our home country. But, even without TVs in many countries, we can’t get away from it when we have several news apps on our laptops that keep popping up the latest “horror of the day, week or month.”

One might also think, “shut it off” and live our lives of travel embracing our new surroundings from location to location. However, we weren’t oblivious back “then” (while living in the US) and we aren’t oblivious “now.”

Over the past few years, we’ve lived in close proximity to chickens and crowing roosters. Now, as we prepare today’s post, we can hear roosters crowing, a sound we’ve come to ignore, even while sleeping. The breed of chickens in Thailand is different than we’ve seen in the past.

In other words, one can “run but can’t hide” from the realities facing our world from one corner of the world to another. We won’t get into all the issues here and now. Most of our readers are savvy, not only reading our daily drivel, but also paying close attention to what’s happening in their homeland and throughout the world.  They know. We all know.

Over these past years we’ve raved about Emirates Airlines safety record and yet yesterday they had a frightening crash luckily handled by competent pilots saving the lives of 300 passengers but sadly with the loss of life of one firefighter. Nothing ever stays the same. Do we think twice about traveling on Emirates in the future?

Driving down the dirt road from our villa toward the highway.

Before we lock in any flights we check airline safety records at sites such as this and others.  No matter how often we check and how safe a record may be for any given airline, it only takes one disaster to end the lives of hundreds of passengers.  \There’s no guarantee.

It’s the same with terrorism. No place is exempt from an a devastating occurrence. Sure, many parts of the world aren’t safe at any time. But, those countries, cities, and small towns which may seem safe become just as vulnerable after a single incident. 

Once on the main highway, the roads are good with relatively light traffic during most times of the day.

One cannot predict where that may be although some locations are glaringly obvious at this time, those that we see on the news over and over again as more and more lives are lost. 

Can we avoid visiting those vulnerable locations? We try. Then again, we hear of natural disasters over which no one can predict the devastation often destroying hundreds of lives, families and homes. We have no means of determining where those locations may be.

Many old Thai style buildings line the highway.

Now, living on the island of Phuket, we’re remain aware of the 2004 tsunami, where hundreds of thousands of lives were lost in 14 countries as indicated below from this site:

“The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake occurred at 00:58:53 UTC on 26 December with the epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The shock had a moment magnitude of 9.1–9.3 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of IX (Violent). The undersea megathrust earthquake was caused when the Indian Plate was subducted by the Burma Plate and triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean, killing 230,000 people in 14 countries, and inundating coastal communities with waves up to 30 metres (100 ft) high. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. Indonesia was the hardest-hit country, followed by Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.”

Its been a full week since we grocery shopped. As soon as we upload today’s post, we’ll be heading back to this Costco-like store for the next week’s groceries. 

At the time on US and world news, we heard more about the loss of life in Phuket, Thailand which remained in our minds all these years, than we did about the other 13 countries. And yet, in four weeks from today, we head back to Indonesia to live directly on the ocean, a matter of meters from the sea to the veranda, a country that also fell prey to loss of thousands of lives. Do we worry?

We ask ourselves the question, “If we lived in a senior community in seemingly safe Arizona or Florida in the USA where many seniors move to escape cold weather, would we be any safer?” 

Buddhism is the primary religion in Thailand. Many shrines such as this are found at local businesses such as this at a gas station.

The answer is clear. No country, no state, no city and no small town or village in the world is safe. For us, the real question becomes, “Do we allow ourselves to be filled with fear and worry while living amid the most exciting and interesting times of our lives?”

Lots of exposed power lines along the highway in Phuket. We’ve been concerned we’d lose power here and have experienced a few surges but, so far so good.

We can allow the “bad news” orientated media to rule the quality of our lives or, we can chose to find fulfillment and joy within the framework of the lives we’ve chosen for ourselves. We opt for the later.

As we look to the future and the countries we plan to visit, we consider many factors.  Like Life itself, there’s no guarantee. We chose to live in the moment and for now, the moment is looking good. 

May all of your moments look good as well.

Photo from one year ago today, August 4, 2015:

St. Mary’s by the Sea in Port Douglas was originally a Catholic church, is now multi-denominational performing services for a variety religions. For more details, please click here.

New beach photos of Phuket!…Shopping for shoes in Vietnam…Good deals!…

We arrived at the pier and main entrance area to Chalong Beach.  Here’s information about this bay from this site: “Chalong’s muddy East Coast shoreline makes it rather unsuitable for swimming, but it’s an ideal and natural spot for yacht mooring. As well as the Boat Lagoon, Yacht Haven and Royal Phuket Marina, Chalong is a center of intense boating activity. Early mornings and late afternoons are the busiest times at Chalong, when diving and day trip groups are bundled on and off boats. The Ao Chalong Yacht Club, which organizes regular sailing races, makes its base here, and its bar is a favorite spot for sailors to swap yarns and party.  Challenge’s most noticeable feature is its 720-metre long, seven-meter wide jetty, which replaced the rickety old wooden pier in 2001. A parking area and a number of restaurants, shops, tourist information kiosks and open-air waiting areas have been built to serve the many visitors passing through. There’s also a one-stop customs, immigration and harbor master service to assist visiting vessels, as well as a new marine rescue centre.”

It’s been hot in Phuket, much more so than it was in Bali.  In an attempt to avoid using air con, by mid afternoon we begin to fade a little, feeling we need an escape from the heat and humidity for a while.

Tour information and sales building surrounded the area, a popular tourist location. Life jackets are ready on the sidewalk for the next tour group.

With the master bedroom’s ceiling lower than the ceilings in the main living areas, it’s more economical to use the AC in the bedroom. By 3:00 pm each day we’ve been turning on the overhead fan and AC in the bedroom to spend 90 minutes watching mindless drivel on my laptop while we cool off before heading to the kitchen to make dinner.

Tourists dining, shopping and staying undercover while awaiting their boat tours.

Not only does this cool us down before we begin preparing dinner in the hot kitchen (too many mozzies to eat outdoors) but it gives me a chance to get into a prone position for a while to straighten my spine. Sitting and standing for extended periods seems to have a negative effect. 

Entrance area for tourists to access the tour boats.

In Bali, we did the same, even prior to the injury, to take a break from being so hot. Having dinner at 5:00 pm is definitely early, but eating only one meal a day makes dining at the early hour more appealing. While on cruise ships, we tend to dine after 7:00 pm since we’ll have had another meal earlier in the day.

Tourists preparing to load the boats.

Each morning when it’s cooler, we do all the meal prep. Now, instead of leaning over the short countertops, I use the cutting board while seated at the dining room table as Tom brings me everything needed for the meal and then putting everything back into the fridge. Bending over, pulling food out of the refrigerator is impossible at this time.

Under usual circumstances we’d have walked this pier.  I wasn’t ready for such a long walk.

Once I’ve washed the veggies in a large bowl of bottled water, I dry and chop them as needed for the upcoming meal. This may include as many as 10 items when each night we have salad with lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, onions and celery plus a cooked vegetable or two on the side, plus whatever veg may be included in the main course.

Another pier in Chalong Bay.

Having everything prepped keeps the actual cooking time down to about 30 minutes preparing the main course, to tossing the salad with homemade dressing, to cooking the side vegetables. By the time we sit down to eat, we’re both hot and sweaty.

No motorized vehicles are allowed on the pier.

Note:  Bali is located 957 km from the equator at 8 degrees south, while Phuket is 872 km from the equator at 8 degrees north, making it hotter in Phuket than Bali.

Photos from Vietnam continue from this point in today’s post

Tom had worn this pair of tennis shoes since we began our journey over 45 months ago. It took them falling apart to this degree to get him to purchase a new pair. It was less about  being frugal and more about his lack of interest in shopping. Thank goodness, he gave these the heave ho at the shoe store. 

I don’t know if we could live long term in such a hot climate only using AC at night. No doubt, the majority of the world’s population that live in hot climates don’t have access to AC and many are without electricity and running water as we’ve seen in our worldwide travels.

Tom’s new tennis shoes, most likely knockoffs. At that point he had no choice but to make a purchase after checking out three stores in Saigon. I negotiated these down to VDN 300,000, US $13.45.  Surprisingly, the quality seemed good, but if they only last a while, no big deal at this price.

None of our vacation home landlords have prohibited us from using the available units located throughout the houses we rent.  That’s why they’re available, for example, in each room of this lovely house in Phuket. 

The shoe stores appeared to have all knock-offs.  Kong advised us to negotiate.

But, due to a sense of responsibility for our energy consumption, we try to use air con as little as possible in the same manner we frugally use other sources of power and utilities as we travel the world. 

On our last day in Saigon, on a bus tour with the cruise passengers, we stopped at the lacquer factory.  Since we have no home there was no point in making a purchase although many passengers did so.  These are popular items travelers often bring or ship home after visiting Southeast Asia.

Yesterday, after we uploaded the post we decided to head to the beach for photos on the sunny day. Also, the idea of being in the AC in the less-than-stellar rental car was somewhat appealing. 

Although reasonably priced and nice looking I had no interest in buying jewelry.

By 12:30 pm we were out the door returning a few hours later in time for our 3:00 pm bedroom cool down. We enjoyed the drive more than we’d anticipated. Once we were off the bumpy road and on the highway, the drive was tolerable for me although there was a fair amount of traffic for a Sunday afternoon. 

The craftsmanship appeared to be of high quality if one could use such décor in their homes.

Tom stayed cheerful amid the wild traffic with tuk-tuks, motorbikes and cars running amok and helpful as always after we parked the car and walked at the beach taking photos as he carefully hung onto me. After many weeks of lessened activity, he’s assuming I’m not as steady on my feet as I’d been before the injury.

Interesting use of color and design.

Tourists were everywhere at the beach, shopping, eating and spending money at a variety of shops, venues and tours. More than once we were approached by boat ride “sellers” asking if we wanted to go out on a boat.  I doubt we’ll be able to do so while in Phuket as I continue to exercise great caution in everything I do. Bouncing on a boat would hardly be suitable at this point. 

We wondered if these pretty plates were suitable for serving food or merely decorative. One never knows when purchasing products such as this, if lead based paints are used in production. 

In any case, we thoroughly enjoyed the time out and about. In a few days, we’ll head out again to explore other beaches and points of interest in the area as we’ll continue to share new photos during our remaining month in Thailand.

Pretty colors.

Continuing on, as we wind down to the final stories from the Cambodia and Vietnam cruise/tour, we have a few fun shopping photos to share.

Have an pleasant last day in July or first day in August depending on which side of the International Dateline you reside!

Photo from one year ago today, August 1, 2015:

This was the first time since we’d arrived Queensland that we saw this many sunbathers at a beach in Australia. The sun was very strong resulting in the use of rental umbrellas and many beach-goers staying in the shade. For more photos, please click here.