A thoughtful and unique gift for me from a friend…

Sindee gave Tom this personalized bottle of South African-made Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot for me. How thoughtful she is! Thank you, Sindee!!!

Yesterday, our friend Sindee whose husband Bruce passed away several months ago, with whom we’ve stayed in close touch, sent a text asking if we could pick her up at the bus stop last night around 7:00 pm, 1900 hrs. after visiting family in Johannesburg over the school holiday and returning by bus. Many locals use this bus service to get to the big city, which is a five or six-hour drive from here.

Sindee is the principal at a school in Komatipoort and had time off during the recent school holiday to visit family. We were happy to pick her up. We’d have an early dinner, and Tom would pop out in plenty of time to meet her at the petrol station in the Marlothi Shopping Centre.

He suggested that I stay behind since the car is tiny, and this way, Sindee could sit in the front seat. She is taller than me, and the legroom in the back seat is minimal, to say the least. I was happy to stay behind, I ended up talking to my son Greg on the phone on Whatsapp (free calls worldwide), and the time went by quickly until he returned a short time later.

The same four zebras stopped by again this morning.

When Tom walked in the door, he handed me the above-shown bottle of red wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, one of my favorites. I’ll savor one glass per evening since its alcohol content is 13%. I usually drink very low-alcohol wine since I don’t tolerate higher-content alcohol. Don’t get me wrong, I love regular red wine with normal alcohol levels, but if I drink the higher content alcohol, I can’t sleep at night and easily get a hangover. So I limit myself to one glass.

Right now, we’re trying to use everything in the freezer, refrigerator, and cupboards, and we’re doing a fine job. Yesterday, I noticed two bags of unsweetened frozen strawberries in the freezer I had purchased to make smoothies for Tom. When he never wanted a smoothie, the strawberries remained in the freezer.

I looked up some keto recipes online and found a quick and easy recipe for a keto strawberry cake topped with keto cream cheese frosting. I doubled the recipe making two layers, one plain without frosting for Tom and the other with a thin layer of keto frosting for me. Each evening, after dinner, we’ll each have a little slice of our cake which is low in carbs and calories.

Several blue waxbills stopped by to partake of the seeds Tom placed on the tray.

The two layers came out perfectly, and the cake appears moist. I frosted my layer and placed both layers in the refrigerator on separate plates since they will be kept for about a week. Moments ago, we took chicken out of the freezer to defrost in the fridge overnight, enough for the next two nights, both breasts and thighs, which we’ll roast on the braai to have with salad and rice for Tom.

Tomorrow morning, if the weather is good, we’ll head to Kruger National Park, which is the last time we’ll go before we depart on April 29, a mere 18 days from today. The days are passing quickly. I’ve yet to start packing the bags we’ll t us and the bins we’ll leave behind until we return in 14 months that Louise will store for us.

If we go to Kruger, we’ll do so after our walk but before breakfast, which we’ll wait and have at the Mugg & Bean in Lower Sabie for our final time.

All of the friends we invited to our farewell party poolside at Jabula on April 20 have RSVP’d that they will attend. How lucky is that? We’re thrilled.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 11, 2022:

Tom and I were wearing silent disco headsets listening to two different songs, smiling and laughing all the while. Such fun! For more photos, please click here.

Last night at Jabula…Hot, humid, busy and fun…

A turaco checking us out.

Note: Yesterday, I posted the wrong year-ago photo, which I have since corrected for the accurate date. Also, not many photos ops right now during the busy holiday weekend.

Yesterday evening, we headed to Jabula for our usual Friday night fun at the Cheers-like bar, followed by a delicious dinner. When we arrived, Dawn and Leon were outdoors with some old friends at the bar by the pool. It was unbearably hot and humid, even in the shade. They invited us to join them, and we did.

I’d brought along my usual bottle of ultra-light white wine with only 5% alcohol, almost one-third the alcohol in a typical bottle of wine, essentially comparable to an alcohol-free wine. We’re always happy to pay a corkage fee wherever we dine out if possible.

When we were in the US, there were no light or low-alcohol wines found at any liquor or wine stores. or served in restaurants. Here in South Africa, it’s common to find at least one light white wine offered on a wine menu. But most of those wines have a bitter taste I don’t like.

Bushbuck Gorden Ramsey and Hal stopped by for pellets.

While we were in the US and out of dinner, I ordered white wine a few times with an average alcohol content of 13-14%. Typically, I order Pinot Grigio, which is one of the few white wines I enjoy. I prefer a full-bodied, dry red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Pinot Noir. But since I had open heart surgery in 2019, I don’t seem to tolerate drinking full-alcohol red wines.

Instead, occasionally I drink low-alcohol wine from a Cape Town vineyard, Four Cousins, called Skinny Red, with an 8.5% alcohol content. The taste is surprisingly tolerable; although it feels very light. It doesn’t seem to keep me awake at night or leave me feeling hungover after only two glasses in an entire evening.

With these limitations, it would make sense to quit drinking entirely, as I’d done for 20 years. I didn’t start drinking wine again until we were on a cruise in 2016, and drinks were free. With some prodding from our cruise mates, I had a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, which tasted good.

I drank in moderation from there, enjoying the taste and socialization until I had the surgery in 2019, after which I found myself still enjoying the taste and socialization but feeling hindered by the aftereffects of red wine. Thus, since that time, I have had regular red wine on a few occasions, always regretting doing so later.

Three zebras with the fourth coming up from the rear.

Several months ago, I ordered several cases of Spier 5% alcohol Chenin Blanc. The taste has been tolerable, but now, as I’m down to the last bottle, I’ve found I’ve lost the taste for that wine and won’t be ordering any more from the vineyard. At Spar a few days ago, I grabbed four bottles of another brand of low-alcohol white sparkling wines. Two of the bottles are alcohol-free, with only .5% alcohol content, and the other two at 5%. We’ll see how these work out. I’ll report back here if they are worth mentioning.

In any case, after we both were sweating profusely sitting outdoors by the pool, after about 40 minutes, we headed upstairs to the bar. I had never seen Tom sweat so much. His new shirt was soaked. With no aircon working due to load shedding and the temp and humidity outrageously high, we continued sweating along with all the other patrons at the bar. Load shedding ended around 7:15 pm, 1915 hrs, and finally, Dawn was able to turn on the two aircon units.

Our food arrived after 7:00 pm, 1900 hrs., and we ate at the bar. The place was packed with customers during the busy holiday period. We were having a good time chatting with familiar patrons at the bar and, as usual, were content to eat at the bar, which other customers often do.

By 8:00 pm, we headed out the door, still warm and sweaty and looking forward to running the aircon in the bedroom to cool off. We’d forgotten, with the frequently changing schedule, that load shedding would be occurring in our area, different from the times for Jabula.

The fourth zebra joined the threesome.

Once we entered the door in the dark, the house felt particularly sweltering after cooling off in the air-conditioned car. Once we headed to the bedroom, we turned on the fan run by the inverter, changed out of our clothes, and looked forward to the load shedding ending an hour and a half later, which it did. We slept peacefully in air-conditioned comfort, although not quite long enough.

At the moment, we’re in the bedroom, with the air-con running. Tom is taking a nap, and I may try to do so also once I get this post completed and uploaded. Again, tonight, we’ll head back to Jabula, but load-shedding will be taking place again during the same hours as yesterday. Today, it’s even hotter and more humid than it was yesterday. But we’ve decided to go anyway. So what if we’re hot and sweaty? No harm done! The fun times are worth it!

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, December 17, 2021:

Please zoom in to see newborn wildebeests with umbilical cords still hanging, indicating they were born most recently. For more photos, please click here.

Our version of a “Happy meal”…Tightening our belts…Visit to a winery…

Here’s yesterday’s meal: bacon-wrapped, hard-boiled egg stuffed meatloaf made with grass-fed meat; salads with red romaine (cos), celery, carrot, and homemade salad dressing; sliced cucumber sprinkled with Himalayan salt; steamed green beans and broccolini;  oven-roasted zucchini; good-for-gut-bacteria probiotic sauerkraut; and my favorite low carb flaxseed and almond flour muffins topped with grass-fed organic butter. So who says “low carb” dining isn’t healthy?  (The red bottle in the center of the table contains homemade low-carb ketchup).

With a tremendous financial outlay upcoming over these next 12 months, we’ve had to carefully pick and choose as to how we spend our allocated budgetary allowances.

Subsequently, we’d decided to dine out on rare occasions while in both Penguin and the Huon Valley. After all, we’ll be on another cruise in 19 days which consists of “dining out” three times a day (if one so chooses) with generally great meals, all of which are specially prepared for my specific diet.

Our kindly landlords have encourages us to visit the garden anytime we’d like to pick the organic produce. What a treat this has been!

Tom has no trouble finding items he particularly enjoys even with his trimmed back agenda, preferring not to gain the former 4.5 kg, 10 pounds on each cruise. Instead, he’s entirely cut out toast and cereal at breakfast, bread with dinner and a multitude of sweet treats.

Instead of spending a fortune on dining out while in Tasmania, we’d chosen to take advantage of fabulous, readily available grass fed meat, organic vegetables, free range chicken and eggs and fresh caught fish for our home cooked meals.

Sliced cucumber, broccolini and green beans fresh from the garden added so much to our meal as shown below.

This upcoming Friday, February 17th, we are dining out, heading to Willie Smith’s Organic Apple Cider restaurant for dinner and the live entertainment (available only on Friday nights) to celebrate a combination of Valentine’s Day and my birthday.

Since the onset of our travels, we’ve celebrated each occasion separately dining at two distinct locations. However, this year, with our attempt at cutting back, we’ll only celebrate dining in one restaurant, having chosen Willie Smith’s after a recent visit. Please click here if you missed our story and photos.

What was I thinking when I took this lopsided photo of our hard boiled egg stuffed, bacon wrapped low carb meatloaf (made with grass fed beef)? 

After the upcoming dinner at Willie Smith’s, we’ll be sharing food photos, the menu options and pricing for our evening out. So please check back on Saturday, February 18th (the 17th for those on the opposite side of the International Dateline).

Had we not been cutting back to this degree (my idea, not Tom’s.  I’m the budget police) with the upcoming final payment due in November for the pricey Antarctic cruise (see the cost and details of this outrageously expensive expedition at this link), we may have chosen to dine out more frequently.

By-the-bottle, wine to go menu.

When we booked this cruise there was no doubt it would crimp our budget but we were willing to stretch ourselves for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s one of those special events we decided to accomplish while we were still young enough to partake of all of the activities off the ship on the Zodiac boats.

Wine barrel display.

Adding the higher than usual cost of the 24 day cruise beginning on April 22nd from Sydney to Seattle, followed by the equally pricey cruise to Alaska on May 17th when we first arrive in North America before heading to Minnesota to see family, we stretching our budget to the limit. 

Adding the fact that we’ll be living in a hotel for six weeks in Minnesota, dining out for all meals, we expect a much higher monthly expenditure than our usual cost of living in vacation home in various parts of the world.

Locally made dinnerware and glassware.

Its easy to understand why we’d have to pick and choose where we spend our money in the interim. Dining out, for us, just isn’t that much of a treat especially considering my special diet. While cruising, the dining becomes more significant for the socializing at meal times than the food.

Many alpaca wool items are for sale at the winery’s gift shop.

When we visited the Home Hill Winery and discovered their upcoming special event as shown on their website, it was tempting to participate. However, spending at least AU 200, US $154 for the meal for two held little interest for us especially when we’ll have dined out the previous evening at Willie Smith’s as mentioned above.

Instead, we wandered through the winery taking photos at our leisure, reveling in the pretty scenery and their herd of alpacas, generally having our usual pleasant experience.

Diners can watch the chefs at work from the shown rear wall.

As an award winning winery, they produce wines offered at many Tasmanian and Australian establishments. Here a comment about their wine production from their website:

Dining outdoors on a sunny day is appealing at the lovely home Hill winery.

“The vineyard was planted out in 1992 with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sylvaner grapes. The grey loam, high-clay soil and reliable rainfall provide excellent growing conditions for these varieties.

The Huon Valley sits on the same degree of latitude as Bordeaux in France (albeit forty-three degrees south of the equator rather than not. As a result, these regions share a similar climate, with winters featuring fog, frost, snow, and an abundance of spring rain. This allows for the slow ripening of fruit during warm months and the perfect conditions for excellent climate wine to be produced.”

Indoor dining area at Home Hill Winery in Ranalagh, Tasmania.

Of course, a highlight of our visit was the opportunity for us to see their alpacas. They offer a wide selection of products made with the fleece of these beloved animals. 

There’s an option to dine outdoors away from other diners.

The alpacas didn’t approach us as readily as when in New Zealand, most likely due to unfamiliarity of a constant flow of visitors. We easily recall how shy and hesitant the NZ alpacas were when we first arrived.

It was ironic to be up close with alpacas when it was a year ago we were living among them in New Zealand, an experience we’ll always treasure.

When all is said and done, we’re happy with our decisions for future travels and don’t ever feel we’re sacrificing quality of life. On the contrary, even on quiet days like today (Sunday), we find ourselves embracing every moment as a special gift.

May your day quiet day be special as well.

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

One year ago we responded to a request from readers as to our favorite places to visit thus far in our world travels. We posted this photo of the Treasury in Petra, Jordan after a very long, hot walk. Click here for one of two posts. This sight made us gasp with our hearts pounding wildly, less from the walk, more from sheer joy! For that post with more favorite location’s photos, please click here.

Drinking wine after all these years…What’s the deal?…Does drinking wine increase inflammation?

The two bottles of New Zealand wine we purchased and savored over this past week, yet to finish both bottles.

It’s hard to say what prompted me to want to try drinking wine after almost a two-decade hiatus. Many years ago I was told by the medical profession that any form of alcoholic beverages could increase inflammation. 

In hearing this bad news at the time, I totally lost my taste for drinking wine. Why consume anything that was destructive to my health when almost five years ago I changed my way of eating to exclude all grains, starches, and sugars? 

Since that fateful day in August 2011, I haven’t had as much of a taste of any foods included in these food groups and have been relatively pain-free from a chronic inflammatory spinal condition that has plagued me for almost 30 years. 

My dear elder sister has laid in bed for over 10 years with this same condition with severe muscle wasting and nerve damage from the same hereditary condition that will prevent her from ever walking or being mobile again.

Medical science is not exact. All I know is that by living in this narrow food bubble, I am pain-free and able to travel the world.  For fear of changing that scenario, I’ve also stayed away from wine, fearing that an occasional glass could send me into a tailspin, reversing all the good benefit from this way of eating.

A pretty flower on a walk.

Scientific data changes. Over the years with the online assistance of Dr. William Davis, who wrote the book, Wheat Belly and many other successful books since that time, he had taught me in personal email communication to test my blood sugar using a glucometer when trying new food, at one hour and again at two hours. 

If my blood sugar didn’t escalate to any degree after ingesting the single item on an empty stomach, then, most likely that particular food wouldn’t be increasing my levels of inflammation. 

In the beginning of this way of eating I tested 100’s of foods narrowing my options to a relatively short list; grass-fed beef, free-range chicken and eggs, wild-caught fish, full fat dairy (in moderation), nitrate-free bacon, and organic non starchy vegetables. 

In the interim, I’ve completely avoided any processed foods, foods containing chemicals, soy, beans, rice, and fruit, all of which can exacerbate inflammation. For me, this way of eating has worked. 

For Tom, this way of eating has completely eliminated GERD and IBS, chronic conditions from which he suffered for years, now completely gone…gone…gone.

Flowers blooming on the farm.

As a side benefit, weight control is easy as we continue to enjoy delicious meals, neither of us ever gaining weight. It’s only when we’re on a cruise or out to dinner that Tom indulges in his favorites; bread, fries, and sweets, often gaining as much as seven or eight pounds on a cruise. Otherwise, we never have any such items in our temporary homes.

Frequently reading medical studies, (many of which are often skewed by money-grubbing sponsors), I’d noticed that drinking wine in moderation, no more than two small glasses a day, may actually be instrumental in reducing inflammation and blood sugar.

Overall, with heredity against me, I’d have full-blown type 2 diabetes if I didn’t follow this restrictive low carb way of eating, another inflammatory disease. My glucose levels escalate on days I may eat too much or too many of the foods I can eat. 

Excess low carbs foods and protein in themselves can exacerbate the production of glucose in the blood along with poor insulin management. This isn’t an “eat all you want” way of eating as many assume. 

Its high fat, low carb, moderate protein way of eating creates homeostasis (definition: “the tendency of a system, especially the physiological system of higher animals, to maintain internal stability, owing to the coordinated response of its parts to any situation or stimulus that would tend to disturb its normal condition or function.)”

Lemon tree growing on the farm.  We have a tree outside the front door from which we’ve been picking and using lemons since our arrival.

No doubt, I could go on for hours on this topic but prefer not to be repetitive from many past posts. If you’d like more information, please email me and I’ll send you a list of easy to read books with information from reliable medical professionals and scientific studies that more clearly define this lifestyle in more detail.  (We don’t sponsor or receive any remuneration from these authors or publishers).

Curious to see if I could drink an occasional glass of wine, two at most on any given day, I recently purchased a new glucometer, test strips, and lancets at a local pharmacy. (My older glucometer had quit working and the test strips had expired).

I began testing my blood after drinking both red and white wines on an empty stomach on separate days (New Zealand brands, of course) to see what would transpire.

As it turned out, my blood sugar went down after drinking two small glasses. This phenomenon, not new, is based on the liver being too busy processing the alcohol to pump out more glucose, keeping the blood sugar relatively low when drinking in moderation. 

This response is different for everyone. Most diabetics cannot drink at all and are advised to completely avoid alcohol. Please check with your medical professional as to what may be acceptable for you

We continue to visit the pink cockatoo pair on the farm.  They make lots of noise when they see us.

In any case, when Tom and I shared a glass of wine at “happy hour” a first for us in many years, we couldn’t help but giggle over the enjoyable experience. (Tom rarely drinks at home).

I must admit, I got quite a “buzz” after drinking two 3 ounces (85 gr.) glasses of wine as we languished in the chaise lounges on the deck. Not surprisingly the red wine affected my ability to sleep well that night when the white had no effect at all. Both were very dry wines, a Cabernet and a Pinot Grigio.

I’ve missed an occasional glass of wine. Now that I see no deleterious effect, I feel comfortable trying an occasional glass of white wine with dinner while on cruises and out to dinner. I’ll avoid the red, which taste I’ve always preferred, for the sake of a good night’s sleep, a common side effect experienced by many red wine drinkers.

There are carbs in wine, approximately 3 grams in a five-ounce glass which I’ll factor into my diet on the days I choose to have a glass or two which won’t be that often.

An adorable baby goat tied up at the side of the road in the neighborhood.

Gee…now that I know this I think back to all the wine tasting I’ve missed in our travels. Obviously, there’s no way to make up “for lost time” nor do I want to. However, going forward it may be a delightful adjunct to social events and dining in our future travels.

As we toasted each other at our few “happy hours” over this past week, we made eye contact as we were reminded by our friend Sue in Minnesota who always explained we should make eye contact with the person with whom you’re making a “toast.” Most certainly, this adds to the festive occasion.

Next time you have a glass of wine (if you so choose and it’s appropriate for your health) look into the eyes of the person your toasting, saying “Here’s to you!” We’ll be toasting to all of YOU!

Also, happy St. Patrick’s Day to those who celebrate in the South Pacific!

Photo from one year ago today, March 17, 2015:

A year ago today, while my sister was visiting us in Kauai, we found the elusive Hawaiian Monk Seal, lying on the beach at the Napali Coast.  We were so excited to see this amazing creature. For more photos, please click here.