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Ecuador La Libertad Ecuador Salinas Ecuador Uncategorized

Casa Blanca at Playa Cautivo

After the long ride and stressful day yesterday, today is muy tranqilo, thank goodness! I’m just laying around reading my book in paradise.

Here’s where I’m staying… it’s amaaazing! It’s about 1/2 block from the beach. It’s not visible from here but I can hear it! The sea here is always filled with 30 or more ships that are waiting their turn for the fuel docks nearby.

Playa Cautivo

Casa Blanca was a thriving B&B until Covid hit. Ecuador clamped down really hard on movements in the first year of the pandemic. There are five beautiful little casitas; three are bedroom & en suite bath, one has a little kitchenette and mine is the only one that has a complete kitchen. It’s so nice to be able to cook anything I want! I am eating pretty much the same as I did at home, though I’m getting more and more anxious about not having a scale to weigh myself. Is my belly getting bigger??? I used to weigh myself daily!

It’s very tropical here, with passion fruits hanging from vines, and even a banana tree over near the pool, complete with a bunch of bananas! There’s lots of beautiful greenery.

Lounge area and entrance
One of the cute casitas
Plumeria

The first dinner I cooked here was Trumpeta, Trumpet fish. It was very good, much like cod. They sure look weird though!

Trumpet fish

I haven’t been to the open air mercado market yet, I went to a big supermarket because I needed all the basics. The produce was super cheap! Bell peppers 9 to 16 cents, a giant bunch of broccoli $.30, fat funny-looking carrots $.27, packaged lettuce $.68. On the other hand, the cost of some things made me recoil in shock…like $6 for a very small package of chia seeds, which I eat every day, and $6 for a tiny jar of coconut oil or avocado oil. If it’s made in Ecuador it’s really cheap but anything imported is super expensive, including things from China. There aren’t any Dollar Tree type stores here; if you need a kitchen implement it’s gonna cost at least $3-5.

The carrots are short and fat but delicious

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Fun with Notaries

I sold my car to my doctor/friend Matt. When he went to get it titled, they told him the car was still titled in NC! I was already on my way here so I had to figure out a solution long-distance. Oy! I had turned in my NC title and applied for an AZ title when I moved to AZ. I got the new camper title back but didn’t notice that I didn’t get one for the car. When I knew I was going to sell the car, I went to the DMV office and they said I didn’t need the actual title, I could just fill out a Transfer of Title form. So that’s what I did, not knowing that AZ had dropped the ball. Well now we’re in this big mess with a very tight time schedule because Matt needs to ship the car to Hawaii by June 30, and NC automatically holds title requests for 15 days after receipt!

How embarrassing! When I got here I downloaded an NC Duplicate Title request. It needed to be notarized so I had to hire a facilitator to help me do that. The first notary we went to insisted that we present an identical copy of the form, translated to Spanish. Not just the words, but someone would have to design a whole new identical form, which would take about a week and cost $200!

The facilitator had a notary friend in another town though, who said she’d do it without a translation. We went there and I discovered that in Ecuador they don’t notarize on the document, they do a separate sheet and staple them together. I got that and we sent it out via air to a friend in NC who’s going to add the money order and Next Day Air it to Raleigh. I also sent a Power of Attorney form so when the new title comes to her, she can assign it to Matt and Next Day Air it to him

But the more I thought about the Notarization being on a separate sheet, the more I wondered if it would be accepted. I called DMV, with the requisite seemingly endless Hold, and sure enough, it needs to be notarized on the document.

The only place to get that accomplished is at the US Embassy in Guayaquil or Quito. I was able to get an 0730 appointment for today and arranged for an English-speaking taxi driver to pick me up at 5 a.m. and drive me to Guayaquil.

If you assume like I did that employees at the US Embassy would speak English, you’d be wrong. There were two other people who also had 0730 notary appointments. First a woman came up but only spoke Spanish. We waited and finally a man came who blithely said they were not doing notarizations today, please come back on Tuesday and you don’t even need an appointment, come any time! Whoa! One man left, the other man said it was crucial that his document get notarized today, and I explained that I’d spent $100 on a taxi and drove two hours to get there and that I couldn’t come back on Tuesday. Another long wait and finally they let both of us in!

You have to go through a couple Security checkpoints, carry no metal, no keys, no phone on you. They have you remove & keep all your paper money and identification on your person. Boy I’m glad I wore pants with pockets because I had an embarrassingly huge gob of money, as I’d been told to bring small bills to Ecuador! I don’t know how I would have held it all in my hands. Pass through a thingie like they have at the airport while they x-ray purses and wallets, and you turn off your cellphone and they take all your stuff and give you a locker key. You sit and wait until called, then they do all the paperwork and then send you down the hall to pay the fees. It cost $100 for two notarizations! Then you bring the receipt back and wait again. They call you up and you hand them the receipt and go wait again. A man called me into the Interview Room and I had to put my hand in the air and swear everything on the document was true, and he stamped my documents….at last! Then we went to DHL and sent another air package to NC.

It took over two hours just to accomplish those two things! All in all it cost $350 to get the correct notarizations sent to NC. But it’s finally done and maybe now I can relax and enjoy my stay here, at least until I have to start worrying about receiving the new title back in time to get it to Matt. I know that’s going to take at least three weeks

Tomorrow I promise I’ll send more photos of this beautiful amazing place.

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Ecuador Uncategorized

I Arrive In Ecuador

On Sunday I had a nice drive to the Valley with Matt and his 10 year old daughter Eva, where we were met by my friends Jeanne and Jim. Saying goodbye to Matt was really hard but not as much of a snot-fest as I had feared. I was a big girl and didn’t cry too much. I’ve never ever had to say a truly final goodbye to anyone I really cared about before. Matt’s family is moving to Hawaii in July.

They kept me for a couple days, took me to get my $150 PCR test for travel and a couple other places, then dropped me at the airport on Tuesday evening. I’ve never experienced this before..NO LINES at the check-in counter or Security! Weird. So that meant I had 3.5 hours to wait for my 10:30 pm flight. Then a 4 hour overnight flight to Miami, a 4 hour layover, and another 4 hour flight to Guayaquil. Somehow I always manage to have the longest hikes between airport gates! My first flight was at Gate #29 of 30, and in Miami I had to go from Gate #1 to Gate #60! Good thing I had plenty of time, as it took me over an hour to get there; I had to stop and rest multiple times. My carry-on bag and underseat daypack were both very heavy.

Upon arrival in Guayaquil, I ran into difficulty. The Immigration guy was NOT going to let me into the country! He kept paging through my brand new passport and kept asking if I spoke Spanish. He went and consulted with 5 different people and after about 1/2 hour, finally a woman came over and said the problem was that I’d spent two years here and had been away for seven years, and my Residency permit had expired. Yeah, so what…..you can’t ever come back to visit?? I told them I was here for just 81 days. Honestly I don’t know what the big deal was, but they finally stamped my passport and let me in. Phew! Boy I was sweating bullets; I was sooo tired, and in no condition to be sent back to the US on the next flight out! There was no problem finding my luggage, they were the only things left on the baggage carousel, and there were no lines at Customs. Thank goodness Denice and her taxi driver were still patiently waiting for me.

They took me to Dodie and Randy’s wonderful Casa Blanca at Playa Cautivo. It was a B&B until Covid hit. It’s amazing! My casita has a large bedroom,full kitchen and bath. Just outside the door there’s a covered porch with comfy sofa, and lots of other lounge areas & hammocks over near the swimming pool too.

There are 4 dogs and 8 cats here, plus an outdoor aviary with lots of budgies, lovebirds and a couple cockatiels that’s right outside my door. Lots of very cheerful chirping! And I have my very own kitty, who is able to come & go at will unless I keep the screen door locked!

Kitty “Destiny”
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T Minus Nine And Counting

Oh me oh my! Only nine days left before liftoff; seven days til I leave here! I’m getting more and more excited….and sadder and sadder every day. Somehow those two should not go together, but that’s how I feel. I do wish I could just jump on down to Ecuador and skip that nasty expensive PCR test and the long flights. First a 5 hour redeye flight to Miami, then almost 4 hour layover, then a 3.25 hour flight to Guayaquil. And a two hour taxi ride to Ballenita.

I did get my transportation to Phoenix straightened out though, and I don’t have to take the Greyhound bus! Phew! Matt accepted a family practice position in an Urgent Care clinic in Hilo, Hawaii, so they are moving too! They are going to do a goodbye visit to family in Phoenix next Sunday and they’ll let me ride along. My best camping buddy Jeanne will meet us on the road and take me home with her, take me to get my PCR test on Monday, and drop me at the airport on Tuesday evening.

I am selling my car to Matt, either for his oldest son to take to college with him, or they may possibly be shipping it to Hawaii! It’s the only state I haven’t been to (got hooked on Alaska and went there 5 times instead) but maybe my car will make it. I suppose that doesn’t count.

I did a trial packing run the other day…bad news! There’s no stinkin’ way I’m going to get everything I want to take in one checked bag. So today I’m going through everything again, trying to winnow out everything but the essentials. I could pay the extra fee for a second checked bag, but then I’d have to pay it again when I return to Phoenix in August, and I don’t think my stuff is really worth that much.

In Ecuador they don’t have thrift shops. They use it until it’s unfixable or pass it along. So I really need to take my clothes with me. Besides, seems like all the Ecuadorian ladies really love to wear really tight spandex, which is definitely not my style! I can’t imagine spandex is at all comfortable in that 90 degree heat, either.

Last weekend Matt came over and helped me finish painting the back of the house. Even with my 10.5′ ladder I couldn’t reach the highest part of the gable end. He also helped me muscle the big solar panel and a couple of the heavier propane tanks into the shed. I also finally did some small carpentry projects that should have been done three years ago! I’m so glad I got all those outdoor chores done, as we’re now in the middle of 5 days of 50+ mph winds here. Being outside is just miserable. Except for packing and getting stuff stored away in the shed at the last minute, I’m actually done with projects.

I sold my darling camper yesterday, to a young couple of Canyonlands National Park employees. It was a great relief to get it sold, but I’m very sad about it. I sure had a lot of great trips and good times in the 13 years I had her. This leaving is different from the last time I moved to Ecuador in 2013, because then I knew I’d be returning to the US for a couple months every year, since my mom was still alive. So when I moved then, I left my car and camper with friends. This time if I do come back, I won’t have anything to drive or camp in. And actually if I do return just temporarily, I’ll probably fly back to Detroit where I still have lots of school friends, not to Phoenix.

I am also very sad to leave my rocks. Isn’t that crazy? But during the years when I was wandering around, I picked up a lot of special “good rocks”. For three years when I lived out of the car and camper, I carried probably 100# of rocks with me everywhere! They’re now surrounding my little garden spot. I am taking some good rocks with me, but just a small handful of really tiny ones, mostly agates. Funny how my past life boils down to a bunch of digital photos and just a few special things, all goofy. The things I can’t live without: a very small stained glass happy whale souvenir from Maine, and a plastic solar flamingo that flaps it’s little wings. This move takes the cake though, paring down to just one large suitcase and a carry-on bag of stuff! I am leaving a large suitcase in Phoenix, in case I ever do get to go to Albania, with cool weather clothing and a few other things that are hard to find there. I would get rid of about half the hot-weather clothes, as it’s only hot for about 3.5 months in Albania. (No real winter on the Albanian Riviera though).

As to the “where to go after Ecuador” decision, right now I’m thinking that if the situation in Europe is about that same as now, I’ll come back to Phoenix in August, do my dogsitting gig, then fly to Detroit and visit friends for a few weeks and fly to Albania from there. It’s crazy though, it costs about $300 more to fly there from Detroit than it does from Phoenix, even though it’s a couple thousand miles closer!

If I had to make a quick exit from Albania, I could take a ferry to Greece (Corfu) or Italy and fly somewhere else from there, if I couldn’t get to the airport in Tirana (two hours’ drive from Vlore). Still, it’s a bit scary.

If I’m too much of a chicken to go to Albania then, I can get a 90 day visa extension in Ecuador just by asking for it and paying $150. After that….90 days in Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia??? I really don’t want to be THAT adventurous!

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Getting Closer!

My time here is growing short….again! I am leaving for Ecuador on or about May 14. I’m going to Phoenix first, and my flight leaves on May 17. I will need to get a PCR Covid test the day before. At this time I do not know how I will get to Phoenix, as I will be selling my car. As a last resort I think I could just do all the car transfer paperwork a day or so ahead of time and drive to the Greyhound station in Show Low, leaving the car there for the buyers to pick up. The Greyhound takes 6 hours (twice as long as by car, because it goes through Flagstaff first) and leaves at 6:30 a.m. It costs $70. There is a possibility that I can get a ride with a neighbor who goes to Phoenix monthly, if the timing works out.

I am excited to go to Ecuador but sad to be leaving my tiny house, I really do love it. I am now NOT the owner! We signed the purchase agreement last Friday, but I retain a Life Estate Deed so I can come back here and live in the house any time I need or want.

My return flight from Ecuador is on August 8. I have promised to dogsit for friends in Mesa from August 10-15. So I’d be ready to fly somewhere else on August 17.

I’ve been agonizing over where to go after Ecuador, someplace safe from Putin (that would mean NOT a NATO member country!) and cheap. I narrowed it down to Lake Chapala in Mexico, Tunisia or Morocco. The problem with Mexico is that they have not been granting Tourist Cards for longer than 30 days lately, so that would be a waste of money to fly down there for such a short period of time. I guess if you want to stay long term, they really want you to apply for Residency, for which I can’t qualify. Mexico requires a monthly income of at least $2413 a month, and my income is WAY below that.

But I’ve decided that if things are still the way they are in Europe, if Putin is not actively threatening the NATO countries, that I will just go ahead and go to Albania when I return from Ecuador. If it gets scary, I can make a run for Tunisia for under $200 airfare. I am hoping to make a 2-3 week stopoff in Detroit en route, to visit with my old childhood and school friends. Strangely, it costs several hundred dollars more to fly to Albania from Detroit as it does from Phoenix, even though it’s a couple thousand miles shorter trip! I can’t understand how the airlines figure their fares.

I’ve got most everything shipshape here, so there’s not a lot to do before I go. At the last minute I’ll have to stash the 5 propane tanks, two solar panels, two ladders and the house heater in the storage shed. Then there won’t be much of anything laying around that’s worth stealing.

It’s the windy season again. It usually goes from March to June but started a little late this year. Last night we had 75 mph wind gusts and the house was shaking a lot but thank goodness it’s been anchored well. Today it’s only 55 mph wind but it’s still too ugly to do much of anything outside. A normal day in windy season is winds around 30-35 mph, which the weather forecast calls a “breezy” day. I’m going to have a big job cleaning up when the wind settles down, things have blown away that have never been bothered before, like all the flowers out of my cute flowerboxes, a stack of foam insulation panels that had two ladders and some patio stones weighing it down, and lots of other stuff. I’ll have to go crawling around under the trees to retrieve a lot of it. Uggg!

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More Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!

What’s on the schedule for today? Would you believe buying an airline ticket to Ecuador? Yeah, no kidding, try to keep up!

A friend invited me to come back to Ecuador (where I lived from 2013-2015) and stay in guest quarters at their lovely home overlooking the ocean! It’s near Salinas, about two hours SW of Guayaquil. It sounded like a great way to escape the summer heat here in no-air-conditioning-land. So I gave it a lot of thought and about five minutes later bought a ticket for June 8 – August 8!

The ticket cost is easily offset by not having to buy car gas for two months (a major investment these days!) and by the 75% reduced food costs. Ecuador is gmo-free like Albania, and most of the farmers can’t afford chemical fertilizer so the produce is naturally organic, and super cheap!

I’m so excited about having air conditioning plus having the use of a big swimming pool, and the opportunity to walk on the beach! Even though it will be winter there, it’s still fairly hot but I think I’ll tolerate it better now that I’m skinny, plus my knees don’t hurt anymore so the walking should actually be enjoyable, not an excruciating chore.

A number of my Ecuador friends have moved back to the US or Canada but I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the ones still there. Right now the only human I ever speak to is my doctor and that fairly infrequently. And even extreme introverts need SOME human contact! So that aspect is also welcome.

Are y’all crazy jealous yet?!

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Change of Plans

Well in light of all the strange things going on in the world right now, after much agonizing deliberation I’ve decided to postpone my move to Albania. I am still second-guessing myself but I guess playing it safe is a rational plan. But I am really really sad and disappointed. I had this whole new life planned out, and to change those plans is costly. I gave away and donated so many things that now I want back, and I will lose money on some Airbnb reservations that are non-cancellable. Some folks have said to try and change their mind but it would be different if Albania was at war. It’s not! There’s no way Airbnb is going to refund everyone who decides Europe is not where they want to be right now.

The kicker that helped me make the final decision was that the prime minister announced that there could be power shortages because they buy some resources from Russia. I noticed complaints from the Facebook groups about 5-6 power outages a day now…..coincidence? Hey if I’m going to be without power, it’s gonna be right here where I’m all set up for living off-grid, not in some all-electric city apartment!

I was having trouble making ends meet when I made the decision to move in October and now it’s way worse, the costs of food and gas in particular. Now it costs nearly $14 for one trip to town and back. It used to cost $8, which I thought was bad enough!

The thought of having to be here in this hot box for another summer is really depressing too. If the war in Europe drags out til summer I am considering spending $250 for a flight to Detroit so I can couch-surf at friends’ homes and soak up their air conditioning for a month or so! Surely no one would get too sick of me if I just spent 3 or 4 days at a time at their house? The big drawback I see to that is my weird eating habits now. I’m pretty sure my friends would not be shelling out extra money so I can eat my organic, gluten-free, sugar-free, packaged food-free diet.

The other alternative would be to take off in the camper again to higher elevations in New Mexico or Colorado. But most of the places where the free campsites are do not have easy access to organic foods either, plus it could be way too expensive if the gas prices continue to rise.

So……there are lots of things up in the air right now. I so like to have my ducks all in a row, and it’s just not possible at present.

I had donated so many of my clothes to the Concho thrift shop and threw a lot away, I decided I was going to need some back! So I went and found four shirts and a pair of cropped pants that I’d just donated last week, and luck was with me; it was Fill A Bag for $3 day! Yay. Most of the clothes I have left that I was going to take with me are “good” clothes, not “play” clothes. Working around here I get things stained and filthy so now I need more crappy clothes. Sigh.

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Getting Ready

Things with the move to Albania are progressing! Effective January 7, Albania changed the rules for Residency. Now they will be offering Retiree and Digital Nomad Residencies, but all seems to be in confusion right now as to exactly how they’ll work and what will be required. I was going to pay 59 Euros for a 30 minute phone assistance call with a facilitator but even they said to wait, they just don’t know what’s going on yet! One thing is for sure, that generous 1 year Visa for Americans is no longer, and I will have to apply for Residency within 30 days of entering the country. Yikes. I have exactly 30 days before I leave.

I did go ahead and get an FBI criminal background check and got it Apostilled, that’s a special seal from the state or federal government attesting to the validity of a document. I read that it could take up to 8 weeks (and I only had 6!) so was very relieved with it arrived quickly. I also got two Apostilled birth certificates. Of course all these things are not cheap.

I learned that Albania has a northern and a southern dialect, and they are quite different! I wonder which one I’m learning. Hopefully the southern one! One of the things that makes Albanian so difficult for Westerners is that some words are just unpronounceable for us. Like the word for “hot” is nxehte. Huh? I hit the audio button over and over but still can’t duplicate the sound of this word. And there are plenty more like it. If I pair it with “coffee” though, they all mash together. Kafe Nxehte comes out “Kafenzehsta”. Luckily a lot of Albanians speak English, and if someone doesn’t, they’ll drag over someone who does.

I’ve been collecting things to be packed in the camper, it’s my staging area. The gigantic spinner suitcase I bought for $10 at a thrift shop is there on the bed, along with my carry-on backpack and smaller under-seat daypack. I’ve been trying to sort and clean out the storage shed to make room for those things, so I can get the camper cleaned out and hopefully sold. It’s a big drawback to having a tiny house, there’s just no extra space for things like that.

Yesterday I brought in all the clothing I’d stashed out there to go….tried everything on and weeded out about 2/3 of it! I’ll probably become known as the little old lady who never changes her clothes. But I know they do have thrift shops there, as long as I don’t gain any weight. I’ve read that it’s pretty hard to find clothing larger than size 10 unless you have things custom made. I sealed them all into those Space Bags that squish all the air out, and they still take up nearly half of the big suitcase.

Today I went through all the goodies I’d stashed out there to go. I wish I knew what was going to be available there, and what’s not. I thought nearly everything was already out there, but there’s lots of stuff thatI’m still using so will be last-minute items. Seventy of them, as it turns out! Yikes. I guess I’ll be winnowing that list down also, though nothing really takes up a lot of space or weight, 100 items do add up. Luckily the few special things I can’t live without are very small and light.

The suitcase weighs almost 11 pounds so that leaves only 40# for my stuff. The heaviest items are the Chromebook, the PC laptop, a powerful solar battery bank to recharge the phone & Kindles, and two Kindles. Those will all go in my carry-ons.

Two weeks ago I saw the neurologist again, and a neurosurgeon about the brain tumor. The neurologist and my speech therapist both thought I should get it out while it’s nice and small. The speech guy told me they grow tentacles and if you wait too long, just removing it causes a lot of damage to the brain. Pretty scary!

Well the neurosurgeon absolutely did not recommend removing it. He said it’s so small, they’d do more damage trying to find it than it would ever cause. The first neurologist I saw 2 1/2 years ago told me it was a couple inches above my left ear, right about where the speech center is. Wrong! It is actually right on top of my head, between the two hemispheres. Nowhere near the speech center, so there’s no way it’s causing my speech problems. And he also said that this kind (meningioma) almost always grows super-slowly and I’ll most likely be dead of something else before it ever got big enough to cause problems. And they DON’T grow tentacles!!

So the neurologist blames the speech problems on a small brain stem stroke that was SO small, it didn’t leave any trace! I find it hard to believe but I guess we have to blame something or else send me off to the crazy-farm. She wants me to have a CT scan of my head and neck but I’m waiting to discuss this with my regular doctor. I’m not really seeing a lot of advantage to getting it done, and CT scans do involve a good bit of radiation. I had a CT scan of my head 2 1/2 years ago when we were searching for a reason for the speech problems, and it didn’t show anything. BTW my speech is much improved, but not 100% fixed. I still have to be very cognizant of where my tongue is situated.

I dog-sat for friends in Mesa for almost two weeks in early February. I sure got my “dog fix”! There was a big boisterous neutered male Standard Poodle, a tiny intact male Toy Poodle, two Havanese and a toy Doodle. One of the Hav girls was in season. Oh my! The toy poodle, Finn, hated the big poodle. Luckily he has no teeth so when he went all Cujo on the big poodle, he couldn’t do any damage. And the big poodle was just enough of a doofus to not realize he was being seriously attacked. Finn and Misti had to take turns being crated. She was an angel but Finn whined and cried the whole time. What an adventure!

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Brain surgery….me???

I had my first speech pathologist appointment this week. Right away he noticed that my tongue seems stuck to the roof of my mouth. I’d noticed that too, but wasn’t sure where it was supposed to hang out. Who ever notices these things before you really need to know?! He had me read some stuff and do some tongue exercises, and I have a lot of daily homework to do before next week’s appointment. One thing is to read while using a metronome, one word with each click. The speeds are 55 beats per minute (VERY SLOW reading speed!) and then whatever speed I feel most comfortable. I showed him that I can say anything perfectly if I talk really fast, and he said he’d never seen that before. Great. As if I’m not odd enough! And it turns out, the reading speed I’m most comfortable with is 192 beats per minute, or about 3 words per second. I wonder if it has anything to do with my normal reading speed, which is very fast, around 1500 words per minute? (I read two or three books a day). I’ve been really concentrating on keeping my tongue away from the roof of my mouth. I’m thinking it can become a habit, and 90% of my speech problem will be fixed. He thinks if I can correct the “S” pronounciation, I’ll sound near normal. (“L”, R” and “TH” are the other sounds I have trouble with.)

He thinks the speech problem is related to the brain tumor and not, as the neurologist thought, a brain stem stroke too tiny to show up on MRI. So now I don’t know what to think! He strongly thinks I should have the tumor excised while it’s nice and small and easily removed. He pointed out that I have probably 20+ years to live and that the tumor will most likely have to be removed at some point, and if I let it grow, it puts out tentacles that attach to blood vessels and my speech center. That makes surgery much harder and every cut they make to the tentacles, also damages the brain. Yikes!

But….BRAIN SURGERY??? I’m just not quite ready to have my brain bored open, even if it IS supposedly an easy fix right now. The neurologist also thought I should have it removed. Two against one! So I’ve made an appointment with a neurosurgeon in Flagstaff. “You don’t need surgery”, SAID NO SURGEON EVER!

But the logistics are mind-boggling. I had a terrible time finding someone to drive me to/from my one hour cataract surgery 30 miles away. Where do I find a designated driver for a surgery 2 1/2 hours away, when I’ll probably have to be in hospital for a day or two? Somehow I doubt they’ll let me just hop in my car and drive myself home after brain surgery. And surely I’d have to go back for a post-surgical checkup a few days to a week later, before being released to drive. Plus I’m not even sure if I have time before leaving the country to get it done and recuperate. Covid restrictions allowing, my flight to Albania is on March 22.

So I may put it off til I get to Albania. One of the best neurosurgery centers in the world is in Milan, Italy, a short flight away. I’m not sure if the private health insurance I’ll get will cover me outside of Albania or not, so that might mean I’d have to pay out of pocket for the surgery. It’s far far cheaper there than here but I think it still costs around $1500. I’d need some time to save up for that, plus hotel or Airbnb costs for the week or so I’d need to be there. But…there’s no tearing hurry to get it done; these meningiomas are very slow -growing.

And the deepest darkest part of me wonders if I’ll come out the other side and still be “me”. Pretty sure I would be, heck it’s not like it’s a frontal lobotomy! And if not, maybe I’d end up a nice happy extrovert instead of this uncomfortable introvert. Hope springs eternal!

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Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone; I hope you had your favorite kind of holiday!

Yesterday I had a doctor’s appointment. The whole office staff came into the exam room and sang Happy Birthday, and Dr. Matt gave me a beautiful little mason jar bouquet of flowers, two jars of his wife’s homemade sugar-free jam and a really sweet card! It was all I could do to keep from crying….I swear, he’s the kindest man I’ve ever known. (My birthday is Saturday)

Plans for Albania are progressing. I’m getting more & more excited, but also sad. I know I’ll be fine but just thinking about the Goodbyes makes me cry!

I have reserved an Airbnb in Tirana, the capital, for the first three nights. I’ll need time to recover from the flights and the 8 hour time change, plus get a new phone sim card and calling plan, and exchange some money. The Airbnb owner is going to pick me up at the airport.

I have also reserved an Airbnb apartment for $335 a month for March 26 – May 1. This will give me time to find a long term apartment. This is the place I rented: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/46851887?adults=1&guests=1&s=42&unique_share_id=1b4e0fbb-f88b-4284-9d8f-e0dcf12db795&source_impression_id=p3_1637680483_eOoAdQHG%2F4k1uBL4

I had some inexpensive sea view apartments bookmarked and when I checked on them, two were already rented for my time period, two turned out to be in the old Communist block buildings with no heat, and one was a third floor walkup! (It pays to read every word in the descriptions!)

So that only left a few of the cheaper ones and I felt I’d better jump on board. I had to pay the first 30 days up front and there’s no refunds for cancellations!

Oh and I changed destinations! I’ve decided to head to Durres, not Vlore. Durres is bigger, not a plus in some ways. I’m so not a Big City girl, but both cities were bigger than I’d like so it probably isn’t much different. The population is around 120,000 and Vlore has 80,000. It’s only 30 minutes from Tirana, the capital, so probably has a better array of goods and services and better healthcare, with more English-speaking doctors. Vlore is about 2.5 hours from Tirana. The summers in Durres are not quite as hot. I read that the temperatures there are rarely colder than 31° or hotter than 91°. Summers are hot and muggy and winters are wet but not terribly cold, and even in summer the temps drop to around 65° at night. The increased humidity will be something I’ll have to get used to! The annual rainfall is about the same as it was in Asheville, NC when I lived there. (42″)

I had to apply for a new passport because all I have now is a Passport Card, which has limited benefits and is of no use for going to Europe. I picked up the application and got my passport photos (ugh, they look just like me!) Then I had to make a $35 appointment at the post office to turn it all in. That’s a new one, I didn’t have to do that the last time I applied. I went for my appointment and was really mad that she kept stopping to wait on other customers! What the heck was the $35 for, if not to get exclusive attention?? If I’d gone in there with a bunch of packages to ship, she would not have waited in other customers while working in my stuff! Grrrrr.

I’ve been looking at ads for long term rental apartments in Durres. I really want to have a sea view! Here’s one I found, can you believe the price??! I sure hope there will be places like this available once I get there! (And yes, it has heat, air conditioning and an elevator!). https://www.century21albania.com/en/property/760669/jepet-me-qira-apartament-1-1-me-pamje-nga-deti-new36188.html

I decided to buy myself an early birthday present. I wanted one of those really lightweight four wheeled “spinner” suitcases. I had saved an $89 one in Amazon but when I went to order it, it had gone up to $129! And most of them were around that price. Then I found an American Tourister on a Black Friday sale at JC Penney for $109, so I ordered it for store pickup. Yay. About a week later I went to the St. Vincent thrift shop, and they had one there for $10! So I grabbed it, stopped off at JC Penney and cancelled my order, and went home happy. When I opened it at home, there was a nice jacket, skirt and some books inside! I was going to take that stuff back but a friend fell in love with the jacket and gave $20 for it. So I took back the books, skirt and the $20 and the woman was quite shocked, but very happy! I looked up the suitcase brand and was amazed to find out it cost $280 and is made of polycarbonate which is much stronger than the usual ABS suitcases. Happy Dance! And now I can stash stuff I want to take with me right in there. I’ve been making lists ….I love lists! So far I have 73 items I want to take, and that does not include any clothes. Hmmm. And I’m only taking the one 28″ checked bag, a backpack carry-on and the personal under-seat item, a smallish day pack. So we’ll see how that goes! I may have to do some extreme paring down. The checked bag also can’t weigh more than 51#.

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Albania

Good News

October 31, 2021

Hello again! Good news, one by one I’m eliminating the health concerns! On the second try I finally got a successful MRI of my brain and the tumor has actually shrunk a little! I still need to see the neurologist in Flagstaff next month. I had to wear a heart monitor for 10 days but it didn’t turn up anything ugly either, so all’s well and I don’t need to return to the cardiologist. I do have a very slow heartbeat but it’s not causing any problems. I still feel great except for some back issues every time I have to horse around my 30# propane tanks, which weigh close to 60# when full. In winter I use a tank every 6 days plus a tank every 3 weeks or so for the fridge. The one for the cooktop lasts a good 6 months or  more, as does the bbq grill. I applied and received supplementary propane credit from the Northern AZ Council of Governments, they gave me $1000 credit that’s good for a year and a day. Last year it was $800 but I heard that propane prices are rising exponentially! It’s still $2.69 a gallon where I go but the place in Concho is charging $3.90! And it’s supposed to possibly go up to $7 in the near future. At that rate, the $1000 won’t last long enough!

I’ve been having trouble reading at night so I had a vision checkup and I have a cataract in my right eye. It’s not terrible but it’s really getting in the way of my reading 2-3 books a day! So I’m going to have it corrected in early December. The left eye had cataract repair at the same time I had a macular hole fixed in 2015 when I lived in Ecuador.  I opted to go with “monovision”, where one eye is good for long distance and the other eye is for close up. It sounds crazy but that’s what I’ve got now and I really like it a lot! I only have to wear my glasses for driving, and then only because my driver’s license says so[JP1] .  My big huge problem with the surgery is that they require someone drive me home, and I don’t have anyone I can ask! Even if I took a Uber there & back, they still require another person to be with me for the ride home! So I’m thinking hard about that…..don’t really know how to handle it.

A friend told me that crypto currency was a lot of fun, like going to a casino. So I bought a little bit and earned around $50 worth by doing some quizzes on the Coinbase website. Wow, talk about volatile! It’s up to the sky one day and in the depths the next! I bought $10 worth of Shiba Inu when it was first offered (1.2 million shares!) just because it was doggy-related. Well it’s gone up over 1000% in the past month! Hey this IS fun! Of course it could plunge again any day now. I just read that a guy bought $8000 of it and now is worth $5.7 BILLION! Hey I don’t need that much, a million or so would do nicely, LOL!

A realtor’s sign showed up across the road a few weeks ago, and now it’s gone. Ugh, does that mean more neigbors?? It was 4 really beautiful acres with fantastic views over the valley, for $22,000.

So on to the big news of the day. I am moving! I am finding it harder and harder to make ends meet here, and there’s no cheaper way to live….I have no household expense at all except for $28 a year property tax! But Medicare and a supplement eat up 1/4 of my income, car expenses take another large chunk, and my car is 16 years old! It’s got 220,000 miles on it and bound to need some really big repairs in the not too distant future. The prices of everything are going up way faster than my income. There have been some months where I end up with less than a dollar in my checking account well before the end of the month, so I do more fasting than usual. And I really try to keep a zero balance on my credit card but sometimes I can’t. Those credit cards are a very slippery slope!

I am selling my place to friends, with a Life Tenancy or something like that, that says I get to live here the rest of my life if I want. (So I’ll always have a place to come back to if I want)

So….I’m moving to Europe! Albania to be exact. I have a one-way ticket for March 22. It was only $444 and I just don’t see it getting any cheaper than that, so I jumped on it. Round trip cost $1328…almost 3x as much! Crazy.

I’m sure you’re all rushing to Google Maps to see where the heck Albania is! It sits on top of Greece, on the NW side. It’s a little bitty country about the size of Maryland, and at the same latitude so approximately the same climate, though I believe it’s warmer in winter. It is on the Adriatic Sea!

Albania was a Communist country for about 50 years, ending in the early 90’s. The dictator was extremely paranoid and super strict and Albania was very much a closed country. He was so paranoid, it’s estimated there are 750,000 cement bunkers placed all over the country, ready for the invasion that never came. No wonder the country was so poor! In the past 30 years since it’s become a parliamentary republic, it has gone from being the poorest country in Europe to now considered to be an upper middle class country! The countryside lacks infrastructure and good healthcare but the larger cities can offer a very comfortable lifestyle for shockingly little money.  

It’s a great place for “aging in place”, something I’ve always known that Concho is not. At some point I’m bound to not be able to drive anymore, and then what? I’m 30 miles from a grocery store and 10+ miles from even a convenience store!

I believe I want to live in Vlorë, a city of 80,000 people, about 2/3 of the way down the Western side of the country. It’s one of the oldest cities in the world, dating back to 3000 BC. It’s got a great downtown area with easy walking distance to markets, etc. and is also very close to the sea. It is very very safe, and has pretty good healthcare. Vlorë is about ½ hour drive to the best hospital in the area but also has it’s own highly rated private hospital. It’s also just a ferry ride from Italy and Corfu, Greece where the healthcare is excellent. Italy is rated #2 in the world, and Greece is #14. (The US is #37 but #1 in costs). Private health insurance costs $50-200 a YEAR.

I really like that Albania doesn’t allow GMO foods or glyphosate at all. The food is naturally organic, but far better than our organic foods because ours are still tainted with cancer-causing, endocrine-disrupting glyphosate.  That’s another one of my larger expenses here, food as clean as I can get it. (I still only spend the same amount as is “average” for a single person, probably because I never eat in restaurants) My food costs in Albania will probably be cut by 2/3! The life expectancy in Albania is about 6 months longer than the U.S.

Two bedroom apartments with sea views cost around $300-400 a month, though I’ll be looking for a one bedroom or better yet, a studio! So that should be even cheaper. Lord knows, I can easily live in a small space! It would be cheaper yet in the middle of the city but I kind of have my heart set on a sea view. I loved living in Ecuador just two blocks from the beach. Actually I’d go back to EC in a heartbeat but it’s way more expensive than Albania and far less safe. The things that brought me back from Ecuador no longer exist….too fat, knees too bad to walk very far at all, and my mom.

I have high hopes that I’ll be able to make some friends there. There are expat groups that meet up at restaurants and go hiking & sightseeing together. I’d love to find a friend or two who like to play cards or games or like to kayak. I really miss having friends nearby.

So…that’s about it for now. I know it’s kind of a drastic change but please be happy for me. I’m very excited! I intend to live out my life there but if not, is it a huge deal? Is it a FAIL? I don’t think so! I spent two years in Ecuador and count it as a really GREAT experience. Even if I just stayed in Albania for two years I could easily become debt-free! (I have a low-interest personal loan I used to purchase the land, some of the building materials and the Tuffshed)  I will have around $500 a month left over after I pay all expenses, including that loan payment! It will depend on where I find to live. I really do have my heart set on a sea view.

And just think….this move will definitely revive the blog! I’ll have LOTS of cool stuff to report on.


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Fall Already!

Well I guess it’s officially Fall, or is it winter? Last night we had our first snowfall, just a light dusting but it came with 65 mph wind gusts (40 mph sustained) so it was memorable. My little house was really shuddering in the wind blasts! Tonight’s low is going to be only 24. I’m ready for winter though, I bought two nice coats at thrift shops for $2.50 each, and I’m already armed with my snow shovel and snow boots. Uggggh!

Sorry there’s been such a lull between posts. I actually thought about not doing the blog anymore since it’s so difficult for me to figure WordPress out, but friends say they miss it. So I’ll try to do better. We had extremely hot temperatures in June, near 100, but the rest of the summer was not too bad. In mid-July we had some torrential rains, one 4″ in 2.5 hours and two days later, 2″ in one hour. These rains caused big lakes to form, unfortunately, right across some of our roads. The largest one was chest-high when a neighbor walked along the road through it! These are not your usual mudpuddles after a rain, in fact they are STILL HERE three months later! We are still having to take a long detour up & over a nearby mountain, which I’m thoroughly tired of doing. When we get snow in earnest, most of us will not be able to get up those long hills. The big lake is still waist-deep for about 100′ of the main road heading to the pavement, and apparently the county has no good ideas for getting rid of it. Condensation is very slow on that big a body of water!

Two of the lakes, 3 months later!

After the big rains everything turned green and beautiful! There were volunteer sunflowers, Morning Glorys, Amaranth, Purslane, and all manner of other little weeds and flowers. Then it got dry again and all those darn things turned into stickers and pickers, including the dreaded Goat Heads. Oh my, they are evil! Little tiny 1/4″ instruments of hell, which I regularly step on in my bare feet. They come in stuck to the soles of my shoes, and even though I try to wipe by feet and take my shoes off at the door, they still find their way in. I’ve never stepped on a Lego but folks say these are worse! So now I’m trying to pull all the weeds up out of the yard. Here’s a photo of a Goat Head, greatly enlarged.

The Big Flood washed away most of the gravel from my driveway and left big ruts. Mike came from California to help do some ditching and we (he) laid 73 bags of mulch down to try and divert the water. It’s streaming down from the 4 lots above me, all on a slight slope. The mulch was a lot easier than filling sandbags, though not as effective. There’s still some leakage but not as bad as it was, plus I think the torrential rains are done for this year. I’m reluctant to replace the gravel in the driveway though! Mike’s recent thought is to build a berm above the bags to divert the water from ever getting to my property. (Sounds like an awful lot of work!)

Mike and the mulch

I’ve been feeling great but still having medical tests anyway. Ain’t that the way! But hey, it could be a lot worse, I could feel bad too! My new brain MRI is tomorrow. I think the tumor must have grown in the two years since the first MRI, as my speech is bad most all of the time now. I can’t say S, R or L. I sound like a toddler, or perhaps dim in the brain. A woman at a thrift shop a couple weeks clearly thought I was “slow”, as she spoke loudly and enunciated each word clearly, like people do when they encounter foreigners or the deaf. As though talking louder will help them understand! I’m also wearing a heart monitor for a couple weeks but I’m almost positive it’s not going to turn up anything ugly. I’ve had echocardiograms, leg ultrasounds, and an unsuccessful MRI lately. And yet for the most part, they’re finding nothing really wrong. Except for the brain tumor, that’s obviously still hanging around feeling frisky!

Mike and Raquel were just here for a week. Boy we got a lot of good projects done while they were here! Last time he was here, we got the 6 volt battery bank set up with the big 250 watt solar panel, and that’s been running the fridge electronics all summer……all 100 watts a day! This time we put the electrical cables through the house wall and hooked up a 600 watt inverter, so I can now run small appliances like a crock pot, vacuum, etc. Nothing over 500 watts though, no hair dryers or air fryers! Still, a huge improvement! He installed a new small 55 amp AGM battery in my camper to run lights and the roof vent fan, and had problems with that because apparently they switched the positive & negative leads in the factory! Black was Positive!! It took a little while and some blown fuses to figure that out. He took the door threshold out and put it back where it belongs and installed door sweeps inside and out, hoping to keep water from flooding when it rains and runs down the door. It got tested last night and was much better than before, but I still had water coming in under the door. It’s very frustrating, I don’t know HOW it’s getting in! He put more tape on my camper bubble window that leaks, even though we can’t find where it’s getting in! That helped but also did not solve the problem. These leaks are so frustrating! We stacked cement blocks up 3 high and set the new 250 gallon water tank up, and covered both tanks with silver tarps to keep the sunlight off (it lets algae grow!). The nice thing is, filling both tanks costs the same as one tank! It’s $30 for up to 500 gallons of water. I think there were a few more projects finished but I can’t remember them. Anyway he really accomplished a lot this trip! Poor Raquel spent most of her time at the library, taking on-line classes and/or studying. Here’s a beautiful sunrise photo they took from their campsite.

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Camping & Stuff

Well it’s been awhile since I blogged, and I’m sorry. It’s just become a huge pain in the butt! The new WordPress is so difficult to navigate, I just hate it. For instance, I can’t figure out how to change the font size. Shouldn’t that be pretty basic? Well I’m sure it’s there SOMEWHERE……

I finally got to go camping! My camping buddy from NC, Jeanne, and her sister Joanne, met me at McHood Park near Winslow. We had other plans but the weather got too warm, so that was a second choice. Not a bad one, as it turned out, though the last time I was there it was free. This year it’s $15 a night for bare-bones camping, no power but they did have fire rings, picnic tables and a shower in the restroom. There was hardly anyone there so we both got lakefront sites and had a good time watching the many ducks. Well not ducks, some kind of waterbird though. I’m hopeless at bird identification!

View from my campsite

It’s only 1.5 hour drive from home and on the way there, twice Roxie started making crazy thumping and crashing around in her crate. Then when we arrived, she was absolutely manic….running flat-out for about 20 minutes! I took her to the road and let her run in circles around me on the flexi-lead. I didn’t know what it was, but I didn’t like it….she’s NEVER behaved that way before. The truth emerged at around 4 a.m. when she started thrashing around in the camper with a huge grand mal seizure. Then I realized that’s what was going on in her crate the day before, too. And the running must have had something to do with it, she must have felt strange or something. I just held her til morning, then we took her to the local vet and had her euthanized. She was one month short of her 14th birthday. Up to this point she’d been completely healthy, though plainly losing her cognitive skills. She’d forgotten how to go up & down the two little steps to the house, and twice she wandered off and got a little lost! The vet noticed her pupils were different size, and thought she probably had a brain tumor. Farewell, Princess Roxie.

So….brain tumor! That strikes an ugly chord. My brain tumor has been causing speech problems for quite a long time but at no time did I ever think that it might cause more problems than that! My doc had asked me how long it’d been since the last brain MRI (18 months) and he asked me if I wanted to have another and I said no, not unless my speech got so bad that people couldn’t understand me. Hah. Never did I think that it might cause really bad stuff like blinding headaches, dizziness, balance problems or seizures!! I know, DUHHH!!

So we camped for a week there and I was glad to have people around to distract me. We went to Petrified Forest and Painted Desert Nat. Parks and hiked a couple of the trails, went to Homolovi Ruins State Park and hiked a trail (thought that place was really ho-hum), and of course visited the Standing on the Corner guy in downtown Winslow.

I was home for one day when my friends Mike and Raquel arrived from California.

Mike and Raquel

After 3 1/2 years here, I finally got rid of the ugly piles of junk along the driveway that came with the property!!! I’ve hated that stuff the whole time I’ve been here but didn’t have a way to get rid of it. This time I bit the bullet and rented a big U-Haul trailer ($53 for 6 hours!!) and we all helped load it with old pallets, tree stumps, plus the remains of an old 60’s travel trailer that the previous owner tore down. She PROMISED she would come back and clean it up, hahaha. “Trust me”, she said. So we hauled all that crap to the dump ($40 dump fee) and the yard now looks so good! But bare. I wish I could find some kind of flowers that the rodents don’t like! The only thing so far they avoid is a Russian Sage. I guess I should get more of those.

I’m growing some geraniums from seed but I’m not sure whether or not they’ll be tasty to the rodents or not. I had a nice geranium that a friend sent me that made it through the summer, but I also did a lot to protect it, just in case. I even took it with me camping so I could water it regularly, but it got too cold in the car. I ended up with a little tiny branch that broke off and didn’t freeze, which I accidentally left in Mesa when I was dogsitting. She sent me a photo of it a week or so later and it had burst into bloom, so I guess it likes it there a whole lot more than here. Or camping.

Mike built a nice work table for their campsite, using wood from the scrap pile.

The scrap pile is now gone and it’s going to be a really great place for the patio table & chairs, but first I have to level it out. It slopes about 5″. It’s nice and shady there all afternoon! While they were here we also went out and about to a couple reservoirs near Greer, and had a picnic in a gorgeous campsite in the national forest near there. I was shocked that it was at 9200′ elevation! It might be a good getaway place if it gets too hot here this summer, it’s less than 2 hours from home and only about 10 miles from the grocery stores in Springerville. We also went to Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, as I can get them in free with my Geezer Pass.

After they left was when the loss of Roxie really hit me. She was my last pet, as I just can’t afford veterinary care. It would be irresponsible of me to get another pet. I’ve had a dog, cats, or both ever since I moved away from my parents’ house when I was 20! It’s hard to accept that I’m going to be alone now for the rest of my life. I keep forgetting she’s gone…..so many times I say “I’ll be right back” when I go out the door, and worry when I’m in a store and it’s hot outside in the car. We were together pretty much 24/7. I just found out that it’s illegal to leave an animal in a car in AZ, no matter how cool it is! Oops. When it was really hot I’d leave her home, but she truly hated not being with me. So….the end of an era for sure.

I’ve started walking around the block most every morning. It’s just over a mile, and soooo boring!! But I really don’t do much for exercise, so I try to force myself to go. Luckily it’s usually pretty cool here overnight, even in summer. It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have to do so much to get ready, if only I could just walk out the door and go. But first I have to get properly dressed (bra) and strap on the knee braces, socks and shoes, etc.

I have been digging up rocks though, that’s my version of strangth training, LOL! About half of my property is chock-full of rocks, and they encroach into the driveway and yard. The darn things are like icebergs, only a little bit sticks up out of the ground so I think it’s going to be easy, but the farther down I dig, the bigger they get. I got two out yesterday that were so big I couldn’t pick them up, I had to flop/roll them away! I bought a little blackberry seedling and it took me five tries to be able to dig a hole big enough to plant it this morning, I kept running into big rocks 4″ down! But I finally got ‘er done.

I got the hummingbird feeder up and hope I can keep it going this summer. Last year the ants were so bad, I had to give up. Now I have little “moats” that hang above the feeders so the ants can’t get to them. Within a couple hours of putting it up I had hummingbirds, and a couple days later I had some kind of orioles and warblers, very pretty! I’m dismal at bird identification, sorry. The photos I took are awful too, because the phone’s zoom is crappy and they were taken through the screened window. I’m not even going to try and post them, they’re embarrassingly bad.

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VACAY Finally!

After EIGHT delays and postponements, I finally got to go on my first vacation in more than three years! Unfortunately, it broke down from 23 days to only 9 but hey, at least I got to go somewhere!! I actually had the camper all packed to go once but had to come home, unpack and wait a few more days until repairs could be made to the camper lights. Those cost $39 for parts and $240 for labor! (Ain’t that the way!)

I met my NC camping buddy Jeanne and her sister Joanne in Cottonwood, AZ (just south of Sedona). Jeanne moved here to AZ a year ago and this is the first time we’ve gotten to camp together again! We “boondocked” on national forest land about halfway between Cottonwood and Sedona and drove to Dead Horse Ranch State Park every day to attend the “doings” at an A-Frame Campers rally there.

Every morning the hot air balloons came sailing over our campsite from Sedona, and a couple of the days, they landed there! Pretty cool.

We volunteered to work the coffee tent at the rally from 8-10 a.m. on the coldest morning, 22 degrees! They’d pre-loaded the coffeemakers with water the night before and it was all frozen solid!

They held a doggy costume contest and offered a box full of loaner costumes. I found a unicorn costume that fit Roxie so she went as a very rare “Havanese Horn-Dog” and won second place! We got a really nice quilted mat that’s way too nice to put on the floor, a doggy bowl and a really cute stuffed bunny that I appropriated for my own bed. Roxie’s not much for toys anyway, I tell myself in justification for stealing her prize.

I thought I had everything all set here at home but while the heater kept things from freezing just fine, the refrigerator didn’t hold up. Something wonky about the electrical connection from the 12V battery to the fridge. So I had to throw away about $40 worth of organic meats, etc. That may be the only time I’m ever going to be thankful my freezer is so small!  The fridge also stopped this week again and I could not get it going so had to resort to powering it off the little Jackery solar generator again, thank goodness for that handy gadget! I believe it’s a problem with the cheapie solar charge controller so I’ve ordered a slightly more expensive Renogy one that I hope will be more reliable, and will solve the problem. If that’s not it, I’m stumped.

While in Sedona we tried to go rockhounding to two different sites nearby but had no luck finding either one. One led to a really treacherous tiny dirt track up a mountain, barely one lane wide and with hairpin turns so tight, we couldn’t make them in one go and had to back up and reposition in order to get around the turns!

I hiked the two mile Fay Canyon Trail in Sedona with Jeanne, and made it with no problem! That’s the farthest I’ve hiked in many years. My knees felt fine afterward but I did have some muscle aches the next few days. I wish I had someone to hike with here at home!

Another exciting thing we did was to visit Prescott and…..Costco! My first visit to a Costco, though I’ve been to Sams’ Club a few times. I ended up spending $155 on “great buys”! And don’t regret it a bit.  We wandered around cute downtown Prescott and managed to lose the car, so that was quite a bit of extra walking!

While on vacay I had pre-determined to blow my diet on pizza and ice cream. We got pizza from Pizzeria Bocce which is rated as one ot the top ten restaurants in AZ! I don’t know if it was the best pizza I’ve ever had (County Inn in Pine has that honor) but it was very good and it didn’t make me gain any weight. I totally blew the ice cream spurge and am still kicking myself about it. We went to Rocky Rd in Sedona and I got distracted by the one flavor of low sugar ice cream they offered…..chocolate chip. I got a tiny cup of that (for almost $5!!!) and it was a huge disappointment. I wanted a GOOD flavor like the ooey-gooey salted caramel that Jeanne got! I would never order chocolate chip!  Sigh. Next time I get ready for a splurge, I’m just gonna go for it.

I had more photos but I’ve tried with my Chromebook and the cellphone and I can’t get them to load. Sorry but I give up! The new WordPress has finally defeated me.

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Finally, a porch!

Still not quite done yet, but I’m so excited about how the new porch looks so far! I need to finish the top rail (ran out of 1×4) and to be honest, it’s only painted on the front side, everything else is still raw wood! I also need to do the flooring, the plywood here is just temporary. Once I get the floor done I can build the side railings.

I’ve been storing a cute old chair that I got for $5 at a thrift shop. I’m trying to decide if I should leave it that color, or paint it pink. I don’t want TOO much pink! In spring I’ll try planting some flowers in a big bowl on the seat, see if the mice will allow them to grow.

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GOOD NEWS!

Hello everyone, sorry I’ve been too lazy to write lately. If it’s any consolation, I DO feel guilty!

I have lots of good news this time! I guess I was whiny last time so a group of my old dog show friends sent money to buy the heater I wanted. WOW!!  I rushed down to the propane place where they’ve had 2 or 3 of those heaters sitting next to the door since last winter. Every time I went in there it reminded me how much I wanted one. Well naturally when I got there, they had been sold!! And they said there was some problem with the manufacturer and they wouldn’t be getting any more until February!

Theirs were priced at $299, obviously last year’s price because last I looked they were $329 on Amazon, but now they’re $479!!! I searched around and found a seller that “only” wanted $389. With tax, $412. Cringe! Then another $40 for the stand. And this part is really crazy…$160 for the piping & hose, and that’s using a regulator I already had!!  Would have been over $200 otherwise. I can’t figure out why this stuff is so expensive, but I know they’re not price-gouging because the same dual regulator they sell for $49 is priced at $48 on Amazon. Sigh.. But hey, I’ve got HEAT!!!  Wonderful, cozy, reliable heat, with a thermostat! It’s a great little heater. THANK YOU, everyone who donated money! You improved my life immensely! 

I’ve got it set up for two propane tanks outside, through the house wall to two interior outlets, one for the heater and one for the new cooktop that’s not hooked up yet. (Need the new countertop before I can install it). It’s good to get one of the propane tanks out of my tiny kitchen! I still have a 20# tank inside that goes to the little stove I’m using right now, it is high pressure so can’t be run through a regulator.

I also have LIGHT!! My little inflatable solar Luci Lights are fine for spot lighting but really crappy for general lighting, plus it’s a very harsh white light. I bought an $8 clamp-on work light with the big round reflector shade, cut off the plug and wired on a cigarette lighter plug, popped in a 3 watt 12 volt LED light bulb, and now I have lovely light over the whole house! (It’s plugged in to my handy little Jackery solar generator)

I’m feeling really good right now. A blog reader commented that she had the very same kind of neuropathy as mine, same place even, and that it faded away after 4 months. Well that’s what happened to me too!! It’s almost entirely gone so thanks to those of you who were praying!  I went ahead and had the EMG Electromyelogram test a couple weeks ago. Boy, that’s certainly unpleasant!! Part of the test involves mild electric shock to nerves but the other part involves getting stuck with needles, and it felt like he jabbed them in there about a foot deep!! It showed impingement of 2 nerves in the back that leads to that area. It also strangely showed moderate carpal tunnel in my right wrist, but I’ve never had any pain there! Of course now that I know that, it’s starting to go numb at times, LOL. 

My doctor told me to try yoga and I laughed. My knees don’t hurt at all but they would not appreciate me getting up & down off the floor! Then I saw an advertisement for a video of “chair yoga”, that sounded great!! I almost pushed the BUY button before I remembered…I don’t have a chair!! 

On Friday the 13th my doctor’s nurse and her family came over to get some firewood, I had 4 big cedar trees down that had branches spread all over a big area and it all looked very untidy. Unfortunately he decided that most of the wood was too old but he did get about ½ a pickup load. He dug a big fire pit and we all collected up the smaller branches and threw them on the fire. One time I passed by the fire and thought “Wow, that fire is pretty hot”! It wasn’t til later that I discovered my hair had gotten burned, the whole front of my head plus both eyebrows! No skin burns though. That evening I couldn’t figure out why my hair felt so strange. I thought it was from being outside & blown around but then I felt my eyebrows and knew. UGH! That first night I could make my hair stand up like Martin Short without any Product, just with my hands!! SO attractive!! I was able to pull most of the little frizzly end bits off my eyebrows so they don’t look too bad, but if I trimmed my hair to get rid of the frizzies, I’d only have ½” length left. And my hair is too fine and thin for that, it would not be a good look. I slathered it with coconut oil and then when I washed it, a lot of little frizzly ends came off. There’s a lot still there but I can live with it for a month or so til I can cut them off.

Word in the neighborhood is that a cougar jumped over someone’s fence and tore up their dog! And pretty near by, too. That’s pretty scary! About 25 miles away a cougar killed an alpaca. I’m assuming it was not the same cougar, though I don’t know what their range is.

I just had the most wonderful visitors! My friends from Ecuador, Mike & Raquel. Mike was my Spanish teacher. They moved back to the U.S. a few years after I did. Originally they were going to just stay two nights but it ended up being 5 days!! They have 3 big dogs so it was great that they could run loose here and not bother anyone with their barking. The dogs were very rude to Roxie but they didn’t hurt her. 

Mike & Raquel’s dogs, Calle, Sadie & Gary

Mike helped me do all kinds of things here! (And by that I mean he did them while I watched). The big project was to get the post holders for my front porch cemented in place. They had to be in precisely the right place so the porch roof will line up with the posts. He even put some rebar in the holes to help hold the post holders plus big auger tiedowns for the house & porch.

He also jacked up my camper, put it on blocks and removed the wheels so we could take them to Walmart and get new tires installed, then mounted the wheels back on. He noticed a wheel hub was loose and fixed that too! I never would have even noticed that. And he helped me put the new propane lines through the house wall, and other smaller projects. I never wanted them to leave! They said they loved it here and are coming back soon.

One day they helped me drop my car off in town for servicing (it was an all day job) and when we went back to pick it up, we were early so we drove around a bit. We stopped at Pinetop Brewing Company and had a snack and a beer. I had about ½ a beer….CARBS!! And that morning I’d made sourdough pancakes and ate one, beer and pancake the same day! I was really worried about stepping on the scale the next morning but I’d actually lost weight, and was at my lowest so far….129#!  I lost 3# while they were here, I guess because I was more active. I like it! I think 129# sounds infinitely skinnier than 130#, don’t you? 

I am very excited to finally be going on a vacation in a few weeks, with old camping buddies Jeanne, Joanne (both from Phoenix area) and Deb from Pahrump! Can’t wait! We’re not going far, just to the other side of AZ. But it’ll be the first time in three years that I’ve gone anywhere!

I saw a cute sign the other day, it said “YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT….don’t be cheap and easy!”