Happy Easter! Let them eat cake...


Last year's bunny rabbit cake, chocolate on the inside, fluffy white frosting and coconut on the outside.  The little ones are the baby bunnies of which there were six, for each of the grandchildren to take home.
Our old lives consisted of a series of cakes, gooey, fattening and mouth watering.  Not particularly skilled with small handiwork, the decorating was often uneven, messy and at times, laughable.
Oh, what a mess!  We should have turned the air conditioning on for me to make this cake
this morning.  As hard as I tried the decorate it, the Cool Whip slipped off the cake in the heat and humidity.  Hurriedly, I placed it in the fridge with the hope of"fixing" it when it hardens.  The Cool Whip we bought a few days ago must have been frozen and refrozen.  I defrosted it in the fridge yesterday but today it was runny withgobs of liquid at the bottom of the container.  Oh, well, another laughable cake that hopefully will taste great for our guests after tonight's Easter dinner.
They were always made with love to please the palates of whomever would experience them, invariably to rave reviews in the flavor department amid chuckles on the actual décor.  The design attempt was always playful and at times clever but the execution less so.  This didn't prevent Tom or any of our kids and grandkids from enjoying them any less.
      Each year on the 4th of July I made this flag cake white cake with Cool Whip, fresh strawberries and blueberries
With our new way of eating the days of baking cakes, pies and various confections has long since wafted away, leaving my love of baking in the dust.  I've discovered it wasn't the eating of the cake that I missed but the preparation and subsequent somewhat braggadocio displaying of my most recent "prize."

Every year at Easter I baked the bunny rabbit cake, chocolate on the inside, fluffy white frosting on the outside, all covered with coconut, comparable to a Hostess Snowball.  The cake was big enough for everyone to take home a substantial portion (our Tammy always took the tail) leaving us a generous piece to devour over a few days. 

In our old lives, I frequently made this ice cream cake for Tom and I during the summer.  We'd eat the entire thing in four nights!  Piglets.
In my old "low fat" wheat eating days, I'd splurge for a few days while Tom and I hovered over the remains after dinner, graciously deciding which of us should take the slightly larger piece.  I always insisted I had to "watch my figure' and shoved the bigger piece at him. 
  Ah, once in awhile it was pie as opposed to a cake. This is an old recipe from Tom's family for butterscotch pie.  Making the filling over the hot stove was challenging but making the meringue was a easy using 12 egg whites, sugar, 1 tsp of cream of tarter
In time, Tom packed on the pounds from my baking leaving us relatively cake-free in our new lives. I counted calories to keep my weight at bay (no  more!).  Since our new way of eating began, he's lost the 45 pound of cake that had gone directly to his belly. 

Today, he'll eat cake and again and I'll send our guests home with a piece for later.  No, I won't take a taste.  It's not hard for me to resist anymore, feeling as well as I do. But, its fun to make it, fun to be a "cake voyeur" and fun to share it with others.
   No, I didn't bake Tom's retirement cake.  Raven, who worked at the Cub Foods store in Shorewood, Minnesota, made this cake merely with an idea and a drawing I'd given her.  Amazing, job!
Oh, here's our menu for today, a real mish-mash utilizing foods easy to find here in Placencia Belize:
  • Homemade Crunchy Red, Green Cabbage & Carrot Salad 
  • Tomato, Cucumber and Feta Salad
  • Low Carb Zucchini Lasagna (will post recipe later if its good)
  • Sautéed Buttery Garlic Locally Caught Grouper (thanks Nancy & Roger!)
  • Mozzarella, from Caves Branch Cheese Factory in Belmopan, Belize, stuffed grass fed organic ground steak meatballs, topped with low carb marinara sauce and topped with fresh Parmesan cheese, also from Caves Branch
  • The above messy chocolate cherry cake, hopefully to be "repaired' before serving.
So today, eat cake, eat Peeps, eat chocolate bunnies and have a wonderful Easter filled day with memory making events and love.  Tomorrow is another day.

Scanning and new method of shredding...yikes, tax time!



Receipts as they went through the Doxie portable scanner.
Our taxes have been done for a few weeks.  Per our accountant's recommendation, we are to keep all of our receipts that may prove to be tax deductible. 

Now that we've added advertisers to our site, been asked to write articles for various publications and web sites and do a podcast (we'll share these once published), there are a some opportunities for a few write-offs. 

Of course, we can't write off any of our vacation rentals, personal meals, cruises and basic living expenses.  But, we can, from time to time, write off expenses relative to a specific situation.

Many have asked, "Will you have to pay taxes in the US, if you live outside the US on a more permanent basis?" such as we are doing, as do many US expats.
The answer is an absolute "yes."  One would have to forfeit their citizenship and its resulting social security benefits for any other answer.  That for us, will never happen.

Receipt soaking in hot water in the kitchen sink.

With our taxes sent in by our trusty accountant Steve Thomas, via "e-file" we were left with a humongous pile of receipts we most certainly don't want to carry with us around the world. 

We have our portable Doxie scanner with us.  A few weeks ago, we purchased a clear plastic sheet at the tiny office supply store in the village, in which to place multiple receipts, subsequently to scan, one sheet at a time.   

Yesterday, as Tom unrolled and unfolded the slips of paper, many affected by the humidity, I got to work on the scanning.  Less than an hour later, we were done.  But, on the floor lie a pile of receipts, enough to fill and entire trash can.

A while back, without a portable shredder (all were too heavy to pack), we were in a quandary as to a suitable method to dispose of these receipts. We'd decided on a plan which has served us well. Keep in mind, none of the credit card receipts had our full account numbers displayed.  In most cases, only the last four digits were visible, if at all.

Grape sized "little balls of" torn receipts.

Years ago, the full account number had been displayed.  Now with rampant identity theft and the last four digits alone on the receipt, its a daunting task for thieves to decipher the full number.  They have easier methods in which to acquire our account numbers which I won't mention here.

Placing the receipts into a large plastic bag, I decided to implement our method of destroying the slips without a shredder, without tearing or cutting them into tiny pieces or distributing parts of them in various trash cans. 

Dumping the entire bag of receipts into a pre-filled sink of hot water, we left them to soak for several hours.  At this point we reached into the sink and starting tearing the receipts into small pieces, quite easy to do requiring only a few minutes. During the soaking time, much of the print dissipated as the paper became the consistency of wet toilet paper.

Once the receipts were in this changed state, we reached into the sink extracting small enough portions to make 'little balls" the size of a small grape.

Placing all these "little balls" on the back of the toilet, we drop one ball into the toilet each time we flush throughout the remainder of the day.  One ball at a time.

Yes, I know there are people that will say this shouldn't be done for various reasons.  If you aren't comfortable with the idea of flushing them and you don't have access to a scanner, one can place the "balls" into the garbage, first pouring tomato juice over them.  The acid in the juice will further destroy the paper.

But then again, we all throw toilet paper with colors and dyes on it into the toilet bowl each day.  The printing on the receipts is often thermal printing, most of which dissipates during the soaking.  If we didn't destroy these "little balls" this way, they'd end of in a landfill.  There's no perfect disposal process as yet.  Perhaps, in time, there will be.

With one more task completed, we prepare ourselves for the tasks to be completed in the remaining days 10 days in Placencia Belize.

As for the moment, we are situated on our comfy lounge chairs on the veranda.  There isn't a hint of a breeze and the surf is quiet and almost still. I'm sipping on a mug of my favorite tea, Pouchong. 

Soon, our diligent and hard working guest services staff will arrive to clean, change the linen and restock our household supplies.  Our favorite is Gloria whom we've come to adore.  Her commitment and joy to serve to our needs is humbling.  Yesterday, we hugged in a heart felt embrace.  I will miss her warmth and kindness, so much the way of the local Mayan people. 

Gently, kindly and respectfully, she gracefully handles all of the guest complaints of which there are many.  We see and hear it everyday as the constant turnover of travelers brings new complaints to handle.  She never falters in her strength and courage.  We chose not to complain.  Its not in our budget.

Today, we'll prep for our upcoming Easter dinner for four. Soon we'll walk along the beach, taking special care to spot stingrays who often flutter about the shallow waters along the surf.  Tonight, we'll meet up with new friends Lori and Larry for our last buffer dinner at Robert's Grove Resort.

May I say it again... we are grateful.  For the people we meet, for the friends we make along the way, for the ongoing opportunity somehow bestowed upon us, no more deserving than the next person. 

Have a happy Easter, happy Passover, happy holiday, whatever you may celebrate, wherever you may be.

No cooking for over two months, beginning in 11 days...


The sun reflecting on the sea created the white line of the horizon.
Something startling dawned on me yesterday as I responded to a sweet email message from my new friend Nancy who left Placencia, Belize a week ago today.  Gosh, I miss her.  I wrote that when we're leaving Belize on April 9th, we won't be cooking another meal until after June 16 when we arrive in Tuscany, Italy.  We'll be cruising most of the time.

It was around 7:30 am.

What an odd reality, especially for me, the proverbial foodie, ambitious cook and hostess.  Its hard to wrap my brain around it. 

Cooking has always represented love to me; creating and preparing great recipes, considering the nuances of loved one's dietary needs and interests all the while presenting a mouth watering array of selections at each meal.

We'll miss this view that we awaken to each morning.

At the end of each day I've padded around the kitchen, banging cabinet doors, leaving the refrigerator door open too long, dropping morsels of food on the floor and more in my hair, enjoying every moment of the preparation of the next meal.

I've never tired of the grocery shopping, putting the groceries away, chopping and dicing, mixing and stirring, standing over the hot pan or oven to eventually plate the delectable meal, proudly handing it over to Tom to partake.

Yesterday afternoon, around 5:00 pm, there was another wedding here. We didn't want to intrude, taking this photo from our veranda which was much further away than it appears.   
He seldom comments about the food.  Our routine is that I ask if he liked his dinner when he puts down his fork.  He looks at me and smiles, "It was OK."

If the sound of the "OK" is uplifting and cheerful, he liked it.  If the sound of the "OK" is a monotone, not so much.  I won't make that dish for him again.  Ah, the language of love.  He never need criticize.  He knows it may hurt my feelings.  That, he wouldn't do.

Yesterday, we hitched a ride to Placencia village for our final grocery shopping trip, taking a cab back when we were done.  I'd made a list, as usual, on the grocery app on my smart phone, reviewing it frequently as we hustle through the store. 

This view as well...
With the Easter holiday upon us, the shelves were well stocked.  There wasn't an item I couldn't find including fresh ricotta cheese for a new low carb zucchini recipe I'm making for Easter.  I'll post the menu tomorrow, the recipe after we tried it, to ensure it's worth posting.  You never know.  Tom won't eat zucchini but perhaps our Easter dinner company (there will be four of us) will like it.  I'll test it on our guests.

After spending our usual $160 at the grocery store, plus another $15 at the vegetable stand and $15 for the cab, we found ourselves well stocked. With plans to dine out twice with new friends, tomorrow night and again next Tuesday, we'll be left with nine more dinners to prepare. 

Then, I don't cook again June 17th, the day after we arrive in Tuscany, Italy, shopping within the first 24 hours of arrival. 

With the upcoming 13 days living in Dubai beginning May 21st, we may not cook.  Instead we may choose to dine out in order to experience the vast array of extraordinary international cuisine within walking distance from our vacation property. 

It won't be worth the expense of purchasing spices and other cooking supplies while in Dubai, the only "short stay" of under two months in our upcoming travels. Himalayan Salt, pure, unprocessed, chemical free salt from the foot of the Himalayan Mountains, is the only seasoning that we pack in our bags, the only salt we use when cooking.

Letting go.  Letting go of people.  Letting go of "things."  Letting go of that which we know and love is a part of our journey.  Its not all "vacation-like."  Its not all romance, sunrises, sunsets and smiling photos.  We miss our children and grandchildren, more than they will ever know. Do we even have a right to say we miss them?  We're the ones that left. 

All the quotes espousing "living the dream," all the life enhancing seminars attended in one's career, all the wish fulfillment sayings one ponders in their lives have come to fruition for both of us.  So, we won't cook. 

Xcom Global MiFi device is on its way to us...Best customer service in the world!




(We are not affiliated with this company other than as a satisfied customer). 
aXcess MiFi Mobile Hotspot

The world's first intelligent mobile hotspot you can take with you around the world. This international wireless device is compact enough to fit in the palm of your hand, yet powerful enough to connect up to 5 WiFi-enabled devices simultaneously to the Internet.

Specifications

  • Compatible with 3G and GSM network
  • Tri-Band: 850 / 1900 / 2100 MHz (HSPA / UMTS)
  • Quad-Band: 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz (EDGE / GPRS)
  • Speeds of up to 7.2Mbps download and 5.76Mbps upload*
  • Enables 5 Wi-Fi devices to simultaneously connect
  • One touch remote connectivity
  • (up to 30 foot range) - no need to connect with cable
  • Compact size of 62 mm x 98 mm x 15.3 mm and 81 g
  • Removable, rechargeable Li-Ion battery with charger
  • Computer WiFi connection supports 802.11 b/g
*Achieving maximum speed depends on geographical
location and coverage.
In an effort to avoid UPS from charging us $10 per day per item for holding packages for us while we're in Miami Beach for part of one day, we've decided to have the Xcom Global MiFi device that we'll use worldwide, sent to our mailing service in Nevada.

It will arrive  at our Nevada mailbox by April 1st to be placed into one of the large boxes along with the other supplies we've ordered for our continuing world travels.  The mailing service will wrap and ship all the items to the UPS store in Miami Beach for our pickup (by cab) when our ship arrives in port for the day on April 13th.

Once we receive the MiFi, a device that grabs the signal from Internet providers in most countries, enabling us to be online with up to five devices, we'll activate it and be online.  The device only works when we can see land, less than a mile away.

Aboard ship we'll use the MiFi when we're in port for the day, avoiding the outrageous WiFi charges on the ship.  When we're out to sea, we'll use the Internet package we've purchased on the ship.  For example, on our last two week cruise through the Panama Canal on the Celebrity Century, we paid $399 for the ship's service which served us well, although it's relatively slow.

Adding the cost for Xcom Global service to the cost of the ship's Internet service, we expect our total cost to be around $1000 per month while cruising and only the monthly rate of $395 to Xcom Global when we're situated in one of our vacation homes.

One thinks, why in the world are we willing to pay upwards of $1000 a month for Internet access while cruising and $395 a month when staying put?  For us, the answer is clear.  In order to achieve the level of planning and organization we've chosen for our years long worldwide travels, there are costs we must bear.

On average, we'll only be on cruises for two months per year ($2000) and most likely we'll only need the device for another 5 months each year (at $395 per month) which totals $3975 per year, totaling $331.25 a month. 

In our old lives our combined cell phones bill for calling and data was $185 a month.  Our cable and Internet bill was $235 a month.  The total for these two expenses was $420 a month which is $88.75 more than that which we're paying to be online at all times as we travel the world.  It all boils down to numbers. 

Another factor we consider is our lack of spending on "extras" on cruises.  We don't pay for excursions (although we will in order to see the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx and Giza in May.  No point in one going off on our own in these areas). 

We don't dine in the "extra" cost restaurants.  I don't drink alcohol or soda and Tom drinks very little alcohol, thus our alcohol bill is low.  We don't buy highly marketed souvenirs, photos, spa services, personal trainers, go to art auctions, buy clothing, watches or jewelry. 

At the end of our cruise, our bill will consist of charges for Internet service, Tom's cocktails and as on the last cruise, two bottles of duty free liquor we thankfully brought to Belize.  Tom's favorite, Courvoirsier is US $65 in Belize, as opposed to the US $37 duty free, we paid on the ship.  Of course, one is not allowed to drink their liquor purchase aboard ship.

Fortunately, most locations we've booked for the future have wireless broadband service in the property at no charge.  For example, we are certain the connection will be adequate for our 13 days in Dubai in May, although we'll still have the device with us and will be paying for it. 

However, the advantage we'll have when out of our condo in Dubai, visiting the various sites of the city, we'll be able to use the device as a "portable WiFi" which allows us to use "Maps" on our smart phones with full access to the Internet although neither of us has a cell phone contract!  We love technology! 

We aren't so certain about the Internet service at the 17th century villa in Tuscany Italy, where we'll be spending most of the summer, as having anything other than a dial up connection.  The lovely owners, Lisa and Luca, don't speak English and we've had a difficult time using the correct words to communicate a full description of the quality of the connection at the property. 

Once we arrive in Tuscany on the June 16th, we'll immediately test their service and if not adequate, we'll email Xcom Global explaining that we'll need to continue to use their service and won't be returning the device at that time.  We've alerted their customer service department to this possible scenario and they are more than willing to work with us.

While on our first cruise, as we were learning to use the device (very easy), we had a few questions that we sent by email.  They couldn't have responded more quickly with an immediate resolution.  This company has the best customer service in the world!

Some have asked us, why "rent" this pricey device when you can purchase one for under $300?  Well, lets say this would be comparable to buying a modem from a cable company but having no service with the company. 

Worldwide WiFi is not FREE. A few countries offer it for their citizens, for which they are ultimately taxed. Xcom Global has contracted with providers all over the world to allow its customers to "tap in" to the various networks. 

These providers are well aware when we're utilizing their network to the extend that they have some restrictions on usage, such as not being able to download huge files or use Skype. using the device. It uses too much bandwidth. Our understanding is that this is to prevent piracy of videos, movies and large international files and, from using too much of their data that is distributed to their own customers. 

Worldwide Internet access is a complicated issue.  We have spent considerable time researching our options and are satisfied with the choices we've made.  In time, as technology improves, hopefully, less expensive options will be available to us.  For now, we feel we have the best service available for our needs.

After all, if we couldn't be online, we'd hardly be able to share all of our travel experiences with all of you on an-almost-daily basis. 

We've been stood up...does it matter?


The sun reflecting on the water this morning.
Every Wednesday morning our cab driver, Estevan, has arrived promptly at 9:00 am to take us to the village to do our grocery shopping, which includes a trip to the vegetable stand.

Arising this morning at 6:30, we hopped out of bed, anxious to start our and tidy up before the maids arrive. They're scheduled to clean our villa Wednesday and Saturday mornings at 9:00 am. They seldom arrive within three to four hours of 9:00 am, always sweet and apologetic for the delay.  We don't mind.  Its the Belizean way.    

Today, windy but cool and less humid.
Also, this morning, we'd invited a lovely couple we met, Lori and Larry, for coffee at 8 am, before we'd take off with Estevan at 9. They have been staying in one of the hotel rooms at LaruBeya and their coffee pot is not quite as good as ours. 

This is their last morning here before moving to the Singing Sands Resort where we'd had Valentine's night dinner, located about five miles north in Maya Beach, owned by our neighboring resort, Robert's Grove.  With Easter week and spring break upon us, most resorts are totally booked, including ours resulting in the necessity of Lori and Larry moving to Singing Sands.

Saturday night, we joined Lori and Larry for dinner in the village, riding along in their rented golf cart.  It was a pleasant evening of idle chatter with yet another friendly couple from Canada.  The dinner was mediocre with small portions and no alcohol service so we ended up at a cute little ice cream shop called Tutti Fruitti, a favorite for tourists and locals alike.  
Tutti Frutti: hand cranked - doesn't get any better!
The ice cream display at Tutti Fruitti, a quaint ice cream shop in the village of Placencia.
 
Looking at the colorful array of luscious flavors, I sighed, knowing this was not for me although I did get a fair share of "voyeur" action watching Tom savor his plastic cup of chocolate chip mint, a former favorite of mine.  Oh, well



Recently, Tom and I decided we'll only write restaurant reviews here in our blog that are favorable.  As we've come to know and appreciate the people of Belize, and due to our huge readership worldwide, we feel it is unfair to "bash" a local restaurant, which ultimately may cause them a loss of business. 

There are plenty of other candid reviews online that that tourists can read to form their personal decisions.  Who knows?  Perhaps it was an off night.  Perhaps the chef was under the weather or perhaps, they were running out of food, resulting in the minuscule portions.  Why complain?  Why fill ourselves with negative energy when there is so much positivity surrounding us?


Another unusual piece of driftwood near our villa.
When this morning our new friends had overslept and didn't arrive until 8:30 for coffee, with more apologies than necessary, the maids showed up at 8:32 and... Estevan stood us up for the first time as we waited around for an hour fully dressed and ready to go.  We looked at one another and shrugged. Oh well.
It just didn't matter.

If our van driver doesn't get us to our ship in time for departure, that would matter.  If we arrive at a vacation rental for which we've paid in advance and there's a vacant lot at the address, that would matter.

But, the rest?  Nah.  We've chosen a path in our lives that is wrought with the potentiality of rampant human error, bad service, bad food, late schedules,  document issues, collapsed steps and more.  How we handle these scenarios defines our depth and breath of our experiences. 

We chose happiness.  Tolerance is the price one pays for happiness.  A small price to pay.

Planning our last two weeks in Belize...today's photos



A walk along the beach this morning on a cloudy cool day.

Man made breakwater we encountered, rocks wrapped in mesh casings about 75' from shore, utilized to protect the shoreline from the crashing waves.
The next two weeks will fly by.  I can feel it whirring by already as we've begun counting how many days of groceries we'll need to get us through.  With a hope to use as much as possible of our food on hand, we speculate that we won't be dining out again.

The bar at the end of the long dock at Robert's Grove Resort.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, will be our last trip to the village with Estevan, our cab driver.  Going through the freezer and refrigerator, we've counted that we currently have almost enough meat to go the duration. With a few trips to the vegetable stand, we've got it covered.
 
With Easter on the horizon this Sunday, we're planning a special dinner inviting our yet-to-remain-in-Belize, Minnesota neighbor Bill, to join us.  Nancy and Roger, our friends who returned to Minnesota last Friday, left us a good sized package of grouper they'd caught while fishing here. 

Local carving popular in Belize.
Safely tucked away in the freezer, I've looked forward to serving the prized fillets one night soon and alas, the time has arrived, Easter dinner.  With Tom diligently back on our stringent way of eating until we're board ship on April 9th, all of our remaining meals will be low carb, grain free, starch free and sugar free including the Easter dinner. 
The traditional Easter dinner as we knew it, is a thing of the past both health-wise and, due to the lack of availability of the many ingredients necessary to make the ham and many side dishes.  Our lives are different now.


This style of carving is frequently seen in Belize.
Tom will be able to indulge a little on the ship, although we don't eat more than twice a day.  Many cruise passengers live for the  lavish multiple meals and decadent desserts available at all hours.  We've chosen a more modest approach with so many cruises ahead of us. 
 
It would make no sense for Tom to outgrow his new slimmer wardrobe.  We've already replaced all his clothes for many sizes smaller while in Scottsdale in December.

An abandoned building, part of a resort that most likely failed due to poor economic conditions.
I strictly adhere to our way of eating at all times while Tom occasionally tries some bread and desserts which don't appear to present any ill effects for him when consumed in moderation.
 
Together, today, we'll plan the meals for our next two weeks, grocery shop accordingly taking the one mile each way walk to Seine Bight to buy additional fresh vegetables again in another week.


This little abandoned shack may have been a food stand or dive shack years ago.
Once the food situation is resolved, we'll begin the process of making to-do lists for our departure from Belize City on April 9th.  Booked on two back to back cruises with the partial day layover in Miami on April 13th, we'll take care of the tasks we have planned as described here in prior posts: go to the bank, ship three of our large suitcases to LA while picking up an awaiting box with supplies at UPS and stop at a drugstore for miscellaneous toiletries.

When we disembark the ship, we'll have to go through customs with the three bags.  When we return to the ship a few hours later, we'll have to check in on the second cruise as would any passenger with the box of supplies we picked up at UPS. 

Another abandoned resort.  Someday these properties will be sold and brought to life again, as the economy in Belize hopefully recovers along with the remainder of the world.  Its sad to see the loss of local employment and potential generated revenues in the many abandoned resorts throughout the country.  Luckily, many well managed and funded resorts continue to thrive today.
This morning, while writing this, I suggested to Tom that we bring one empty suitcase with us.  This way, we can open the box at UPS, place everything in the suitcase, ditch the box and check in for the second cruise.  Once aboard ship, we'll return to our awaiting cabin (same cabin as prior cruise) where our remaining luggage is already unpacked and put away.
 
Gosh!  Writing this down adds clarify to these multiple steps, a necessary reality we'll always face, getting to and from our various destinations.  In actuality, it's the only part we don't like.  In time, it may be our undoing. 

We met this fun loving group of travelers (one wasn't in the pool) that had just come off a one week charter on a giant catamaran with a private gourmet chef and full crew..  They were all from Chicago with one, a former native of Minnesota.  We enjoyed chatting with them.  Unfortunately, they all left the next day.  Yes, those are my feet in the photo! The sun was so bright, I could see to take the photo. Glad my toes were polished!
 
For now, the excitement of our next adventure drives us on with a fervor and passion neither of us has ever known.  The inconveniences occur in only several hour segments, leaving us days, weeks and months to revel in the rich experiences.  Life is good.

Dangerous waters, the sea!

 
Stingray barb. 
The ocean and its majestic wonder is daunting and uncertain. Many flock to its tempting water freely without reservation. That's Tom. Others tiptoe at the shore hesitant to partake in its cooling waters, uncertain as the dangers that lurk beneath. That's me.

Tom is rethinking his position today after yet another guest at LaruBeya was viciously stung by a stingray in her foot yesterday as we lounged in the shade on the veranda. We witnessed the young woman being dragged out of the water by two other swimmers, one on each arm as she writhed in pain.

All the swimmers cleared the water.  The word was out.  There was nothing we could do to help as she was quickly taken to her villa directly above ours, her husband following behind in an obviously frenzied state. 

Photo of stingray in the Belize coral reef.

Resort staff immediately went into action to come to aid in her care.  There are no urgent care facilities within hours of here.  The medical clinic in the village, five miles from here was closed.  The staff stated that the nurse from the clinic lived above the clinic and someone would go to find her. 

In these cases, the nurse will inject the site of the injury with Lidocaine to relieve the pain while the toxins

The treatment for a stingray "bite" is described here in this article.  Its not actually a bite, more so a puncture/scraping wound.  More information about stingrays in general can be found at National Geographic.

The barb of a stingray.  A misconception is that the barb in the actual tail when it fact in it along the tail.

We all recall the heartbreaking story of Steve Irwin's untimely death from the piercing of his heart by a stingray.  A horrifying story. Yes, he took a risk playing with these and other potentially dangerous creatures. It was his life's work.  He left a vast legacy of valuable information about our amazing animal world. 

As far as we've heard, the swimmer above us is recovering after a frightening experience albeit with continuing pain in the bloody piercing and scraping from the barb and its toxins.

Last week, our Minnesota friend Nancy received a nasty jellyfish sting on her arm.  Jellyfish are common in Belize based on its proximity to the massive coral reef.  Having experience a sting four years ago, Nancy was familiar with the procedures necessary to minimize the pain and risk of systemic illness. 

Last time she was stung, she developed a fever, vomiting and body aches.  With pain at the site and quick treatment, this time, she suffered only pain and redness at the site and a general feeling of malaise for a day.  It took a few days for the redness and swelling to dissipate.  This is the treatment Nancy used to reduce the discomfort and speed healing.

When we first arrived at our resort, another swimmer received a sting and was rushed away.  With the knowledge of these potential risks in the warm water so the Caribbean Sea, we've spent little time in the ocean, having walked far out toward the reef only a few times. 

On our frequent walks along the beach, we've seen several stingrays swimming less than one foot from us, exercising caution not to disturb them.

With only two weeks left of our time in Belize, I think for now, we won't swim in the ocean.  The coral reef attracts beautiful aquatic life but along with it comes many potentially dangerous predators. 

The clear appearance of the jellyfish makes it difficult to see when swimming in the ocean.  Jellyfish don't purposely sting.  They have no brain.  Stings results from brushing up against them.
We've taken the biggest risk of our lives leaving everyone and everything we've known and loved behind as we travel the world for the next 5-10 years.  In a concerted effort to avoid health risks and injuries we tend to be more conservative than others may be on a two week vacation. With a four hour drive to a major emergency facility, we've chosen to exercise caution in the areas "that we do know present risk." 

After all, it was only a little over two weeks ago, that we fell on the collapsing steps, averting potentially life and limb changing injuries.  We had no way to know of that risk.  Thus, we choose to steer clear of known risky situations. 

For most swimmers, nothing will occur.  No stings, no bites, little risk.  The waters of Belize are beautiful and generally safe for swimmers, scuba divers and snorkelers.

But for us, does exercising such caution diminish our level of enjoyment?  Not at all.  We're engaging in exactly what we choose to do and at the moment, venturing out into the sea, not included.  The pool is nice.



Photos of our new adventure! Unbelievable location!




The open courtyard of our small palace (good grief!) in Marrakesh, Morocco.


View from upper level overlooking courtyard.
It's a "done deal," our new vacation home named, Dar Aicha, the former residence and art studio owned by a renowned artist in the Medina district, walking distance to sites, smells, markets and local entertainment. 

One of the dining areas.
(This song is an "earworm" I can't get out of my head.  To listen, click here).

The documents are signed and returned to the owner using our portable Prinstix printer and Doxie scanner.  Our deposit is paid via PayPal from which we've received a confirmation along with an email receipt from the manager of the property.

Traditional meal prepared by Madame Zahra.  Adjustment will be made to accommodate our diet although several items here will work for us.
The dates filled:  March 1, 2014 to May 15, 2014, a total of 2 1/2 months, a little over 11 months from now.  We found the property at HomeAway, a vacation home rental site we've used for most of our bookings. 

Dining on the veranda.
For the full listing on Homeaway, click here. Please note, pricing is "per person" on the website, not per couple.  Although this pricing was higher than our vacation home rental average, we made adjustments in our budget. By flying as opposed to funds for cruising that we had already included  in the budget, we were able to compensate for the difference, which ironically proved to be only an additional $150 total. 

Reading area overlooking the courtyard.
Yesterday, we made a few adjustments, a day here and there, with property owners on either side leaving us with flying time but no lags in the schedule that subsequently could have required us to stay overnight in a hotel, an unnecessary added expense. 

This meal would work for us, minus the bread.
We read all the reviews.  They were some of the best we've seen so far.  We checked the web for negative comments.  There were none.  Our minds are at ease.

The TV lounge.  We're not anticipating many familiar TV shows but on quiet nights
we'll use our the movies we downloaded.

The salon/living room.  We can each lounge on our own sofa.
We want to enmesh ourselves in new cultures.  Well, we're getting a full blown dose of cultural differences which we'll embrace, which we'll welcome with open arms, willing to adapt, willing to accept and to try to blend in as much as possible respecting and observing their clothing morays and customs.

The pink bedroom.
No tank tops, no low cut bosom revealing tops, no legs showing above the knee.  Thank goodness the weather will be in the 60's during our visit.  I'm your basis "cold a_ _ and won't mind wearing skin covering clothing at that temperature.

Off we go to Marrakesh, Morocco, a city, a country rich in culture, history, winding streets with an endless array of colorful outdoor markets, shops and vendors.  Tripadvisor listed it as Travelers' Choice® 2012 Winner.
 The pink bedroom's en-suite bath.
Why did we choose Morocco?  Note the proximity to Madeira, Portugal, our location after leaving Morocco. There are direct flights from Morocco to Madeira, making this an easy transition.  The airport is a mere 2 miles from the property, with a staff member driving us each way.

Beginning on September 1, 2013, we'll spend 3 months in Kenya on the east coast of Africa until December 1, 2013 when we fly to South Africa, staying until March 1, 2014 at which time we fly to Morocco.  From there's we're off to Madeira, Portugal approximately 1200 miles west of Lisbon.  This new location was a logical "on the way" next stop.  See map here.

The property which will be ours exclusively includes a full staff, house manager and full time cook, Madame Zahra.  Speaking no English, the house manager, Samir, will translate our dietary needs to Madame Zahra.  On average for the two meals we eat each day (breakfast and dinners) it will be roughly $38 per day. 

The turquoise bedroom.


The many reviews indicated that Madame Zahra's cooking excelled that of the local gourmet restaurants leaving many to prefer dining in rather than go out.  This cost fits within our combined budget for dining in and dining out, still leaving us ample funds to dine out a few times per week to further add to our enjoyment.



Our laundry will be done for us, the property cleaned daily, towels and soaps provided and the utmost service at our disposal at any time.  This will be an interesting for us since neither Tom nor I are used to being waited upon, other than by one another.  We will adapt.
The turquoise bedroom's en-suite bath.

Due to Dar Aicha's insurance regulations, we won't be allowed to do our own cooking.  Most likely, we'll dine out a few times per week.  We will be able to serve ourselves snacks, beverages and prepared foods in the refrigerator as desired.
The third bedroom with an en suite bathroom.
As much as we enjoy our own home cooked meals, this will be a enormous learning experience for us.  Of course, we'll share details and photos of the meals prepared for us.
The third bedroom's en-suite bath.
The practicality of this location is only superseded by our excitement and enthusiasm for the opportunity to experience yet another culture so far removed from our way of life.  Through this, we'll learn and grow, sharing the stories along the way, enriching our travels, enriching our lives. 

Holes in our itinerary...

The piece of driftwood decorates the beach by our villa.  The sidewalk to the center left is the sidewalk directly in front of our villa.
Yesterday afternoon while lounging on the veranda, swimsuits still damp from playing in the pool, we contemplated our upcoming itinerary.  Having cancelled the one month stay at the stone house in France for April 18, 2014 to May 17, 2014 left an almost three month gap in our schedule to open up.

We had intended to use this gap to take a long term cruise out of South Africa on March 1, 2014 getting us back to Europe.  A number of such cruises had been posted for 2013 and we'd hoped they'd reappear for 2014.  So far, not the case.  Cruises appear to be posted approximately 18 months in advance. 

The only cruises available from Cape Town, South Africa during the time frame would cost $25,000+ for the two of us for a balcony cabin, not an expense we are interested in bearing for a mere 15 days.  There were a few less expensive options but on lower rated cruise lines which we've chosen to avoid in light of multiple negative reviews.

So, here we are, with a gap from March 1, 2014 to May 15, 2014 without a decision made.  With less than a year remaining, we knew we'd better get our butts in gear!" 

The shaded grounds of Laru Beya, all natural vegetation planted in sand.
On May 15, 2014 we're scheduled to arrive on the island of Madeira, Portugal to stay until July 31, 2014 with another open spot until October 26, 2014 when we board a cruise onto our eventual destination of Hawaii for the holidays when our kids and grandkids will visit for Christmas, staying until May 15, 2015.  Beyond that we haven't decided where we'll go but we will continue on. Its just too early to secure vacation homes.

Many laughed about our advance planning beginning in January 2012.  We didn't.  As we've experienced life on the move, we realized it was none too early.  When most travelers plan a two week vacation, it is not unlikely to plan a year in advance to ensure preferred reservations in preferred locations.  (Airlines, won't allow booking reservations prior to 330 days before travel, not an issue that's been a concern to us).

We learn as we go.  We've accepted the reality that we will not be able to cruise to all of our locations for a few reasons  1).  Cruises aren't necessarily available when and where we'd like to travel; 2). Cost may be prohibitive if they do.  With 9 cruises booked ahead of us over the next 20 months, we're satisfied with our choices. 

Based on future plans, we'll be required to fly no less than 7 times over the next few years.  We've accepted this reality, determined to gain a more cavalier attitude about airports, baggage fees and the actual flying. 

Ditching the three large suitcases to be shipped to my dear sister Julie in California on April 13th while we're in Miami for one day, we'll be left with two regulation sized large suitcases and the usual carry on bags. We'll then meet the airline's baggage restrictions in both weight and size. The most we'll pay are the standard fees for two checked bags, where applicable. 

On May 21st, we'll fly back to Barcelona, Spain from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Emirates Airlines which allows two checked bags per person in coach at no additional charge.  Many other airlines we'll use, charge $50 per bag or, only $50 for the 2nd checked bag.  Prior to flying we'll check the weight of our bags as we're packing on our trusty mini travel scale to ensure we won't incur outrageous overweight fees.

I know, reading this may be confusing.  But, its no more confusing to us than anyone planning a busy schedule whether working, retired, have children at home, grown children, grandchildren, or are caring for senior parents and relatives.  Somehow, we manage to keep it all straight.

Its surprising how heartily vegetation grows in sand.
Back to the veranda...we researched, we talked, we laughed, we consulted our budget, we calculated foreign exchange rates and much to our surprise, we discovered not only a viable option for March 1, 2014 to May 15, 2014 but a particular option causing me to do my usual "jumping up and down." Tom, of course has the usual non-assuming smirk on his face.

Contacting the owner with a proposal, we anxiously awaited a response.  With a six hour time difference between Belize and the owner's location, we anticipated it could be a few days until we received a response. 

This morning, hearing back from the owner, we negotiated an acceptable arrangement for us all, much to our delight.  Today, we'll receive the contract via email subsequently paying the reasonable 15% deposit by PayPal.  Once this is completed, hopefully by tomorrow, we'll tell you all about it with photos and all the delicious details. 

Of course, we don't want to "jump the gun" until its a "done deal!"

Please check back tomorrow!