God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lions, Elephants--No Tigers

When I retired, I gave myself a gift and dragged Ken along with me. We went on safari in Tanzania. Ever since seeing giraffes floating through trees enshrouded in fog, viewed from a tent set in the bush, I wanted to see them. Unfortunately, Ken was not turned on by the idea, but, as I am the trip planner, what was he to do?

As it turned out, he loved each moment, each elephant, each simba. When it was time to leave the Serengeti on a little plane, taking off from the bush, nineteen days after arriving in Arusha, our eyes were filled with tears and our hearts hurt as we left a world we had not known existed. I have documented this on my website with some evocative photos which include people of the ancient hunter/gatherer Hadza tribe.Tanzania  ((For some reason, the site will only open satisfactorily in IE. Sometime I need to fix this.)

As with anyone I know who has taken a safari, we have wanted to return and have often told Casey we would take him someday.  He has been traveling with us for much of his life, but we needed to make sure he was old enough to have a firm memory base before doing this. Now we feel that time has come so with tentative inquires I began checking things out a few days ago. It didn't take long--maybe a day--for the excitement and enthusiasm to build to a point of no return. Christmas this year will be spent in Kenya--on the Mara, in the bush. Are we excited? I think so.

When we went before, we were with a wonderful company that provided experiences beyond the pale; however, we can't afford them this time. For the three of us the cost would have been somewhere around $18,000 without counting the totally not-cheap airfare to get there. For a while I was quite discouraged until I realized that there are many less-expensive, quite acceptable options out there.

It didn't take long to begin to find them and to know that the dream is realizable. I did some research and then my very good friend Nico of Sant' Antonio in Montepulciano, Italy had some ideas for me. Nico grew up in Kenya as his father owned and managed hotels there.

Nico has established a website Bushdrums which is dedicated to promoting and protecting Africa--particularly Kenya and Tanzania. "The mission of Bushdrums is to encourage practices that will preserve the beauty and uniqueness of the mysterious continent of Africa - the land that we love and are bound to. Our information is designed to give real insights into the lands we travel, the wildlife and people we visit. Without this understanding the picture of Africa will always remain incomplete." Some day I'll devote a blog entry to Nico who is a dear and valued friend and young enough to be my son.

So, in a matter of days, we are well on our way to formally preparing for a trip that won't happen for 11 months--plenty of time to anticiapte, dream, get vaccinated, and whatever else. Already I can't wait.

At this point, I have exchanged e-mails with two very responsive men in Kenya. One represents a planned, packaged safari and the other designs based upon our wants. I think we are going with the second as he has been more than helpful with multiple e-mails a day with ideas and responses to mine. We definitely want tent camps right in the bush, along water holes, etc. as opposed to the more hotel like lodges. We liked that type of accommodations when we were there and I know that Casey will love them. In the evening we will sit outside on the porch waiting for something that may or may not happen but the air will be full of night sounds regardless. Oh--I can't wait!

Currently we are talking about four locations--Samburu, Mt. Kenya area, Lake Nakuru and the Maasai Mara. We may take out Mt. Kenya if we are willing to put up with a 4 hour drive between locations. These are the tent camps we're looking at Larsens Camp or Ashnil Samburu Camp in Samburu; The Sweet Waters Tented Camp (we may drop this locaton); Flamingo Hill Camp at Lake Nakuru; and either Mara Leisure Camp or Sekenani Camp.  I offer all these links in the off-chance that someone reading this may have some input to help with the decisions. I've checked Trip Advisor and other sources and, of course, everything looks good.

As in most travels these days, air travel dictates things. I need to make the Africa plans early so that we can try to use miles to get there. As it is, it will take two different mileage expenditures--from here to Europe and then from Europe to Kenya. We'll be pretty mileage depleted at the end of all this.

Oh--one other thing we will do. Since we will be in Nairobi, it makes sense to take a city tour there so that we have a visual to connect to in the future.

So, this is what is occupying me right now--really quite fun-- a lot different than our normal Italy planning. I do miss Italy every day but there are other places to see and things to do. Come along on the ride with me....

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Pulled Pork is Good

Everyone once in a while--well, really, long whiles. I post a recipe. Always is it something we really enjoyed. In this case it is a new recipe for an old dish but by far the best that I have made. It was moist, super tender and just tasted good. I found it recently in a Cooking Light magazine that I had seen at the dentist office. Now I have subscribed to the magazine which is strange since we've almost stopped getting magazines anymore. They seemed to take up an inordinate amount of space,

This recipe is a real slow cooking one but in the oven--not a slow cooker, which I suppose would work well but why mess with success? The only recommendation I have is to cut back on the vinegar. My family seemed to think it was too strong.

Slow-Roasted Pulled Pork

Photo: Randy Mayor; Styling: Cindy Barr
Yield: 16 servings (serving size: about 3 ounces pork and about 1 tablespoon sauce)


  • Pork:
  • 2  tablespoons  dark brown sugar
  • 1  tablespoon  smoked paprika
  • 1  tablespoon  chili powder
  • 1  teaspoon  salt
  • 2  teaspoons  ground cumin
  • 1  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2  teaspoon  dry mustard
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground chipotle chile pepper
  • 1  (5-pound) boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), trimmed
  • Cooking spray
  • 2  cups  water, divided
  • 1/2  cup  apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3  cup  ketchup

  • Sauce:
  • 3/4  cup  apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2  cup  ketchup
  • 3  tablespoons  dark brown sugar
  • 2  teaspoons  smoked paprika
  • 1  teaspoon  chili powder


1. To prepare pork, combine first 8 ingredients in a small bowl. Rub sugar mixture evenly over pork. Let pork stand at room temperature 1 hour.
2. Preheat oven to 225°.
3. Place pork on the rack of a roasting pan coated with cooking spray. Pour 1 cup water in bottom of roasting pan. Place rack in pan. Bake at 225° for 1 hour.
4. Combine 1/2 cup vinegar and ketchup in a medium bowl; brush pork with ketchup mixture (do not remove from oven). Bake an additional 3 hours, basting every hour with ketchup mixture.
5. Pour remaining 1 cup water in bottom of roasting pan. Cover pork and pan tightly with foil. Bake an additional 3 3/4 hours or until a thermometer registers 190°. Remove from oven; let stand, covered, 45 minutes.
6. To prepare sauce, combine 3/4 cup vinegar and remaining ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally with a whisk. Boil 5 minutes or until slightly thick. Shred pork with 2 forks. Serve with sauce. Serve shredded pork on hamburger buns with pickle chips, if desired.

Monday, January 04, 2010

No Television

A few minutes ago I thought about how we should have played a game tonight--Uno, Scrabble, Boggle,  Mexican Train, something. Then I wondered why we have stopped playing as frequently as we have in the past--it seems as if something significant is missing in our family life.

I thought abut it for a while and realized that once again we are becoming captive to the insidious TV--that screen that caters to inclinations to vegetate and put brains on hold--as if thinking and doing demands too much from us. So we trade fun, family interaction, mental stimulation for mush.

The year we lived in Italy we played games most evenings along with family building and interaction. We thrived as a unit that year. One of the reasons, along with just the shared awe of being in a culture that was not ours, was that we didn't have television. Well, we did have it but most of it was in Italian which didn't work for us.

There was news from the United States but since it was Fox News it was so skewed that we gave up on it. After Casey went to bed we sometimes watched CNN and BBC but that was just for an hour or so. Now when we return each summer, we easily fall back into that routine. The TV goes days without being turned on.

So, why is it here that we watch it? Or at least have it on while we multi-task at solitary things--computers, reading, writing. It has been awhile since sitting at the table, laughing and having a good time. It's not that we don't do it anymore, just not enough.

I remind myself that we don't get days back so we must not squander those we have. Memories that will carry us through will come from times spent with those we love.