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Everything Else Fabulous

    Everything Else Fabulous  --  Inspire

    Clean Water and the Issue of Single Use Plastic

    Traveling Issues I Want to Address

    Location: Mauritius

    Have you turned on your tap today and had a quick drink of pure delicious water? Do you spend your days thinking about clean water and the issue of single use plastic?

    I can count on both hands how many countries and regions we have visited where we can safely drink the tap water; New Zealand, Japan, most of Western Europe, most of the USA, Canada, Scandinavia.

    Even here in Mauritius, a fairly progressive and well run welfare state country, visitors are advised not to drink unfiltered tap water. Even though the locals drink it, a visitor will likely have issues due to microorganisms that could cause diarrhea if you don’t have a tolerance built up.

    Plastic Water bottle

    Water borne illnesses can cause a lot of trouble for travelers, including some serious and potentially fatal diseases. Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Cholera, Giardias are some of the serious diseases that are transferred to humans through water. So thinking about clean water and the issue of single use plastic is something that occupies my mind a great deal.

    Unfortunately you should avoid tap water in all of Africa, South America, most of Asia and Eastern Europe, according to the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC).

    We always research this issue before arrival and then on arrival reiterate the question of tap water with locals we can trust. Even if the question of water purity is a bit on the fence, we always side with safety first. We have both experienced the results of extreme dehydration and diarrhea and that’s not fun for anybody.

    Drinking water in plastic jugs

    And so what to do? Here in Mauritius like so many other countries, there is but one answer – bottled water.

    As a full-time traveler who REALLY wants to make less of an environmental impact and leave as small of a footprint as possible, the issue of water confounds me.

    We have yet to purchase and carry a filtration system with us, but I think we will be doing that soon, because we are really conflicted about the single-use plastic. We have two reusable water bottles that we fill frequently with filtered water, but it still calls for us to use plastic bottles way more often than I am comfortable with.

    water filter in kitchen
    The water filtration unit on the counter left of the sink in Langkawi Malaysia

    Here in Mauritius we are purchasing large plastic bottles of water at the grocery store and using it for washing all our fruits and vegetables, making coffee, drinking and brushing our teeth. The good news here on Mauritius is they have a well organized system for plastic bottle recycling. Strategically placed (and loyally used by locals and visitors alike) plastic bottle recycling stations are found around the island. We have seen very little trash here. As a side note they also have a glass bottle deposit system.

    We have been really excited to find some countries recently making a huge effort in this area. For instance in Antigua Guatemala the city has instigated a system of clay filtered water stations throughout the city. Free for public use. We also had a clay system filter in our Antigua Airbnb.

    clay water filter
    Clay filtration system in corner of Antigua Airbnb

    Our hotel on Inle Lake (Myanmar Treasure Resort) installed a water refill station for guests while we were staying there. As soon as that was installed we began using it several times a day, even though housekeeping continued to stock our room with single-use plastic water bottles.

    Our Airbnb in Cenang Beach Langkawi Malaysia had a wonderful filtration system hooked up to the tap in the kitchen. All water was run through the filtrataion system and we did not need to purchase any bottled water during our month there.

    plastic recycling station
    Plastic recycling in Mauritius

    In Hua Hin Thailand you could purchase a large five gallon jug of water, then refill it over and over again at a station on the sidewalk near the store for about .25 cents (USD).

    Yet in other places beaches are littered with plastic (Thailand, Vietnam) and children play in piles of plastic trash (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia), and locals burn plastic along side the road (Kenya).

    plastic recycling station
    Plastic recycling in Mauritius

    I’ve been doing a lot of research on water filtration options for travelers, and I think I am leaning towards the Steripen, although there are many versions available. We will be adding this to our collection of things we don’t leave home with soon…and I regret we haven’t done so yet. Here is a blog with great information about this.

    Meanwhile, more than half the world doesn’t have good, clean drinking water, while others never think twice about the availability of safe and abundant water to quench our thirst and go about our daily tasks.

    It’s one of a copious number of things our planet is lacking for the health and welfare of the people of the world.

    Do you use a travel water filter? I’d love to hear your comments about what you like and why.

    Please comment and share our blog. Thank you.

    Everything Else Fabulous  --  Inspire

    2019 World Travel Awards

    From My Fab Fifties Life

    And the Winner Is…

    If you’ve been following My Fab Fifties Life for awhile you will remember our 2017 World Travel Awards  and our 2018 World Travel Awards from previous Januarys.  I definitely feel with all of our travels in 2019 (covering 40,000 miles and 12 countries) we are well positioned to once again deliver our World Travel Awards 2019 on many people, places and travel experiences that have touched us this past year.  Just like the Oscar movie awards, we have seen a world of real life drama, fantasy, comedy, mystery, nature and animation.  Enough to last a lifetime. This annual blog is one of our favorites to write and one we always create together. And in past years it has also been one of our best read – so we really hope you enjoy it once again.

    This is a long blog. But I believe it offers some valuable travel insight to the world. I hope you will find it informative and entertaining. Please enjoy our third annual World Travel Awards, Best and Worst of 2019 – My Fab Fifties Life.

    Cenang Beach Langkawi

    For reference – our 2019 countries visited were; Costa Rica, Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, USA, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Oman and Kenya. Due to our efforts for much slower travel, this is half as many countries as 2018.

    DESTINATIONS

    12 Countries

    Favorite Overall Country – Guatemala with honorable mention to Myanmar (title photo above, Lake Atitlan Guatemala)

    You’ll find a clear pattern through out the awards this year with Guatemala winning several awards. It is just a very unique and special country, with few tourists, fantastic food, gorgeous scenery, amazing history and quiet and hard working people. And it’s cheap.

    This all can be said for Myanmar as well. We hope to return to both of these countries in the future.

    Aantigua Guateamala
    Semana Santa, Antigua Guatemala

    Favorite City – Antigua

    Well there it is again – Guatemala. Antigua is a remarkable city of ancient history in the shadow of a live volcano and for us visiting the weekend of Semana Santa gave us the most unique and incredible experience we could ever hope for.

    Most Beautiful City – Shanghai China

    Shanghai China
    Shanghai China

    Shanghai is the antithesis to Beijing – brand new, sparkling clean, stunningly beautiful (especially at night), easy to maneuver and very pedestrian friendly, Shangahi was our favorite beautiful city of the year.

    Cutest Town – Big Fork Montana USA

    We spent four months in the USA this year, getting out to visit some new places and some old favorites. Big Fork Montana was a new addition to our travels and it is just so quintisential America; cowboys, artists, wildlife and good food too. We hope to visit again.

    Big Fork Montana
    Big Fork Montana USA

    Most Expensive Country – Oman and the USA

    Oman and the USA tie for most expensive, although neither was outrageously expensive and should not deter anyone from visiting.

    Oman
    Oman

    Least Expensive Country – Malaysia

    Malaysia doesn’t feel poor like some African countries, but the cost of visiting there is dirt cheap. One of the least expensive destinations per day we have visited and we enjoyed all four of the Malaysian areas we visited.

    Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

    Most Disappointing City – Mandalay Myanmar

    Although Myanmar lands at the top of our list this year for many things, the city of Mandalay was a disappointment and I would skip it when recommending a Myanmar tour.

    ACCOMMODATIONS

    15 Airbnbs, 19 hotels, 1 boat

    Best Airbnb Overall – Mal Pais Costa Rica. We spent two weeks with our friends Randy and Sue in this gorgeous beach front Airbnb on the southwest coast of Costa Rica far from the crowds. We were well cared for by an onsite staff person, we witnessed the most incredible wildlife right in our own front yard, and had the most perfect nightly sunset show I’ve seen anywhere in the world. See it here.

    Mal Pais Costa Rica
    MalPais on the beach, Costa Rica

    Best Airbnb for Service – Diani Beach Kenya. Our lovely little cottage in Diani Beach Kenya came with daily maid service (she even washed the dishes), laundry service (a tiny additional cost), wonderful onsite owners who helped with tours and questions. We spent Christmas with these people and enjoyed having them around us for the holidays. See it here.

    Diani Beach Kenya
    Diani Beach Kenya

    Best Airbnb for Authenticity –Antigua Guatemala

    Our one-room loft with small kitchen in a historic Antigua home included an outdoor patio that overlooked the traditional inner courtyard as well as the ACTIVE volcano which at night we could see shooting lava into the sky. Wow. Unforgettable. See it here.

    Antigua Guatemala
    Antigua Guatemala

    Least Expensive Airbnb – Diani Beach Kenya (see above for Best Service Airbnb) at $65 a night. We spent three weeks in a darling cottage with pool. It was an incredible value for everything we got and we felt right at home.

    Most Unique Airbnb – Lake Atitlan Guatemala. Hands down one of the most beautiful yet also somewhat strange accommodations I have ever stayed in. We lived for 8 days in a cave basically, with the kitchen, living area and deck built in and around the boulders of the cave, a bathroom one level below in another cave and the bedroom, another level below that. Unforgettable. It was 270 steps to access the cave house from the road below. But oh what a view. See it here.

    Lake Atitlan Guatemala
    Cave House Lake Atitlan Guatemala

    Favorite Hotel – Inle Lake Myanmar, The Myanmar Treasure Resort. Far and away above any other hotel we stayed in this year, the beauty and uniqueness of the Myanmar Treasure Resort had us giddy with joy during our two week stay in our over-the-water bungalow. And the staff and service was impeccable. See it here.

    Inle Lake Myanmar
    Myanmar Treasure Resort, Inle Lake

    Worst Hotel – Crooked Tree Resort Belize. I’ve tried to block the one horrible night we spent in this dirty and rodent infested house with broken furniture and mold, from my mind. We were supposed to be there for four nights. We packed up at first light and disappeared.

    FOOD

    Favorite Country Cuisine – Guatemala

    Healthy use of local and fresh vegetables and beans with just enough protein I fell hard for the unique spices and flavors of the Guatemalan people’s cuisine.

    Cuisine of Guatemala
    Vegetarian meal in Guatemala

    Best Meal – Myanmar Treasure Resort offered a wonderful menu of local specialties and the local “Butterfish” was my favorite meal of 2019.

    Butterfish from Inle Lake Myanmar

    Best Cooking Class – Antigua Guatemala and Hopkins Belize. We couldn’t decide between these wonderful experiences. In Antigua I had a private class at La Tortilla Cooking School from a Mayan woman with an English interpreter. We made at lease 8 dishes and all were spectacular. In Hopkins my entire family enjoyed an afternoon with Garifuna Chef Gloria where we learned so much about the local Garifuna traditions, local produce and fish and gorged ourselves on the delicious cuisine.

    Cooking Class in Belize
    Cooking in Belize with Chef Gloria

    Best Beer – USA all the way on this one, particularly since we didn’t spend any time in Europe, the beer of the USA is hands down the best.

    Best Coffee Guatemala. There is Guatemala again (I bet you really want to go there now dontcha?). I loved the coffee in Guatemala where they produce the best from the America’s – a deep rich and almost chocolaty brew. Kenya rivals it with their mountain grown beans that are often touted as the best in the world. For me though I preferred the dark beans of Guatemala over the lighter somewhat fruity Kenyan roasts. Both however got the job done and the smell was heaven on earth.

    Guatemalan Coffee
    Guatemalan Coffee

    Best Food Experience/Tour – Taipei and Kuala Lumpur Two of the all-time best food tours we have ever taken happened this year, the first in Taipei Taiwan with Taipei Eats and the second in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia with Food Tour Malaysia . For both these tours the food was beyond abundant but it was the guides who really made sure our experience was remarkable and unique.

    Food Tour Kuala Lumpur
    Arne on our food tour in Kuala Lumpur

    CULTURAL AND NATURAL EXPERIENCES

    Best Sunset – Mal Pais Costa Rica. For fourteen glorious nights in a row we sat on a log on the beach, gin and tonic in hand, and watched the show…a fiery blend of orange, pink and purple as each day in Mal Pais came to an end. It was truly remarkable.

    Mal Pais Costa Rica
    Sunset Mal Pais Costa Rica

    Most Authentic Cultural Experience – Muscat Oman dining with a local family. We were lucky to stumble onto the Website of Zayr, a local organization who brings visitors together with local Omani’s. Our experience dining in the home of a lovely local family included delicious food, but more importantly wonderful conversation and cultural exchange. We enjoyed it immensely. Shukran to our new friends.

    Cultural exchange Oman
    Dining and cultural experience in Muscat Oman

    Best Beach – It’s a tie!  Cenang Beach Lankawi Malaysia and the greater Diani Beach area of Kenya both deserve the gold statue this year. Diani’s baby powder fine white sand and turquoise blue water is one of the reasons it shows up so often on lists of the most beautiful beaches in the world. But Langkawi’s Cenang Beach, is a clean, long expansive golden beach with incredibly warm waters all with easy access and lots of restaurants and services to make your beach visit comfortable. We loved them both.

    Diani Beach Kenya
    Galu Beach – Diani Beach Kenya

    Best Tour – Inle Lake Myanmar. Our favorite one-day tour was our all day tour in a local boat seeing all of the beautiful and historic sights around Inle Lake. It was truly unforgettable.

    Inle Lake Myanmar
    Traditional Fisherman, Inle Lake Myanmar

    Best Driver – Alehandro in Guatemala was our favorite driver who was not only a safe and exceptional driver, but was a great tour guide, passionate about his country and understanding when I was dealing with severe motion sickness. We became friends. If you need a driver in Guatemala let me know and I can get you in touch with him.

    Antigua Guatemala
    Our friend Alehandro at Semana Santa Antigua Guatemala

    Best Tour Company – China Connections China we don’t use many tour operators, but for our time in China we were taken great care of by several operators and guides secured for us by China Connections, who also booked and organized our Yangtze River Cruise. Everything done without a hitch.

    China

    Best Bucket List Historic Site – Bagan Myanmar. I had read so much about Bagan and the unique and ancient temples there but I still was not prepared for it’s ancient religious beauty and the reverent and dedicated Buddhists who come to this place.

    Bagan Myanmar
    Monks in Bagan

    Best Natural Site –  Glacier National Park, Montana USA. For wildlife spotting in the United States you can’t beat big and beautiful Montana and our visit to Glacier National Park did not disappoint. A top site in the USA you should not miss.

    Glacier National Park Montana
    Big Horn Sheep, Glacier National Park Montana USA

    Best Waterfall –  Mayan King Waterfall Belize. When our two adult sons visited us in Belize this waterfall was one of the unexpected and fun things we did just outside of Hopkins Belize.

    Hopkins Belize
    Mayan King Waterfall Belize

    Best Manmade Site – Tikal Guatemala. When I first started researching visiting Guatemala it was because I had heard so much about this remarkable Mayan site. And it was very remarkable. And we were surprised by all of Guatemala but the fascinating Mayan history here was the cherry on the sundae.

    Tikal Guatemala
    Mayan Ruins of Tikal, Guatemala

    Best Mosque– Muscat Oman, Honorable Mention Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is one of the most beautiful if not the most beautiful (better than the Blue Mosque in Turkey even??) I have ever seen. Only a few years old the tiles, hand-knoted carpet and astonishing chandeliers are phenomenal. Our honorable mention goes to the Wilayah Mosque in Kuala Lumpur for the incredible customer service provided visitors there. Where we had a private tour for free and an opportunity to watch the mid-day prayers.

    Muscat Oman
    The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Muscat Oman

    Best Day Hike – Wadi Shab Oman. After not being able to do this on our first try because of a big flood and mudslide the day before, we are so glad we returned a few days later to try again. I think most people would be pretty surprised at the rugged yet beautiful terrain of Oman, and it makes for exceptionally challenging and beautiful hiking.

    Wadi Shab Oman
    Wadi Shab Oman

    Best Multi-Day Hike – Hiking from Inle Lake to Kalaw. This two day hike was longer and harder than I thought it would be (I should read the fine print) but the experience was amazing. Our guide was great, the food was surprisingly abundant and delicious and even sleeping on the floor in the home of a local Myanmar family with no electricity or running water was a memorable experience.

    Kalaw Myanmar
    Hiking across the rice fields Myanmar

    Most Unique Outdoor Experience – Learning to Goeduck Even though I was born and raised in Goeduck country, I had my first experience this year in Gig Harbor Washington USA.

    Key Peninsula Washington
    Goeyduck Hunter

    Expensive but Worth it – Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Ride over Bagan Myanmar $700. Ridiculously expensive. Once in a lifetime memorable.

    Bagan Myanmar
    High above the temples of Bagan

    Best Wildlife Experience  Orangutan watching in Borneo Malaysia with Honorable Mention to seeing sloths and toucans in Costa Rica. We love it when we can see wildlife in its natural habitat.  Our time in Borneo was all and more than I ever could have dreamed of seeing up close and personal the endangered orangutans as well as proboscis monkeys. In Costa Rica a lifetime goal of seeing sloths in the wild was fulfilled.

    Borneo
    Sharing a walk way with a wild orangutan, Borneo Malaysia

    Most Moving Experience – Journey for Purpose Kayak Trip Belize. If you have a chance, you should do this experience. It was such a wonderful way to stop and appreciate my own self-worth, while getting to know and rejoice together with a group of women I had never met before. The kayaking was hard but the scenery was beautiful with weather that challenged us. And such wonderful memories were made with these women as we held each other up when a family tragedy back home for one women gave us a unique opportunity to show our female nurturing strength and come together as one. I will never forget it. This trip happens annually, learn more here.

    Kayak in Belize
    Journey for Purpose Belize

    Best Performance Marionette Show Mandalay Myanmar. Although Mandalay was not my favorite place, the best thing we did there was attend the Myanmar Puppet Theater and enjoyed exceptionally talented puppeteers who have kept this Myanmar art form alive. Who knew marionettes’ could be so lifelike?

    Myanmar Marrionettes
    Myanmar Marrionettes

    Least English Spoken – Guatemala wins again. Although we were always able to find people who spoke English when necessary, a large portion of the Mayan population in Guatemala who are older than a teenager do not speak any English. English has only been taught in the schools for the past ten years.

    WEATHER

    Hottest Day: Diani Beach Kenya 91 degrees F and 77 degree dew point.  We swooned.

    Coldest Day: Port Orchard Washington USA. During our time in the USA we had a couple of very chilly and wet weeks in June that kept us decidedly indoors

    Cold and wet with my son in Washington

    Wettest Day: Waking up in Placencia Belize to water all over the floor of our Airbnb and sewer bubbling up out of the holding tank after a torrential downpour all night long.

    EXERCISE

    Best YogaBalance Yoga Retreat El Tunco El Salvador. I enjoyed a lot of great yoga around the world this past year with memorable moments in Kota Kinabalu Malaysia (where I did sound healing for the first time) and in La Fortuna Costa Rica, and Punta Cana Dominican Republic but my favorite of possibly all time was the ten days I enjoyed yoga both morning and evening at Balance Yoga Retreat in the tiny paradise of El Tunco El Salvador. Who would have thought?

    Yoga as part of My Fab Fifties Life
    Balance Yoga Retreat

    Best Place to Run Cenang Beach Langkawi. Getting up early before the heat of the day and running on the safe, flat and fabulous ring road and along the beach boardwalk of the small town of Cenang Beach gave us an entire month to really get back in running shape.

    TRAVEL

    28 flights, 1 train ride, 2 small boat rides, one river cruise

    Smallest Airport – Punta Gorda Belize. I am not joking when I say the terminal was a shack about 10’x10′.

    Punta Gorda Belize
    Arriving in Punta Gorda

    Worst Flight Experience – Getting sever motion sickness on a tiny plane from Florez to Guatemala City and then needing to do a three hour drive on winding roads to our final destination of Antigua.

    Airport Most in Need of Upgrade – Heho Airport outside of Inle Lake Myanmar. It’s actually pretty busy, but very rundown. The check-in counter looked like something used as a ticket booth at a carnival.

    Best Airport – Muscat Oman was shiny and new and very comfortable.

    Worst Day of Travel – We had to spend one night in Nairobi before flying on to Mombassa where we would go by car for the 40km trip to Diani Beach. We didn’t know that due to a ferry, that 40km trip usually took 4 hours and on the day we were doing it took 6 and half because of high traffic from the Kenyan holiday of Jamhuri the day before. Not sure how we missed that information in all of our research but it made for a very long and exhausting travel day indeed.

    AND FINALLY

    Just Because It’s Unusual CategoryDental Work in San Jose Costa Rica. I didn’t have a category to fit this in but I needed to mention it because it was quit unusual. But I had a wonderful experience at Meza Dental having an extraction and implant done for a third of the cost of doing this in the USA. A year later it is perfectly healed and I would do it again in a heart beat.

    Dental work in Costa Rica
    Implant in Costa Rica

    Sad But True CategoryPhotographer Death in Belize While our sons came to visit us in Belize we did some family photos of all of us on the beach with a female photographer I found online. She did a wonderful job and she was creative and nice. We received all the photos via email about a week later. Tragically just a few days after that, she died of a stroke. Rest in peace Marian.

    Family portrait in Belize
    Family Portraits in Belize

    So there you have it.  The winner of the Fab Fifties version of the Oscars for 2019.  What a great year full of incredible experiences around the world.  We are the luckiest people on the planet. Who needs a little gold statue when you have a Fab Fifties Life?

    What a fabulous life it is. WATCH OUT! 27 countries planned for 2020!

    Please comment and share.  We appreciate your love.



    Everything Else Fabulous

    I Am Sixty Hear Me Roar

    Happy Birthday To Me

    I am Sixty Years young. Before I launch this birthday blog let me answer once and for all the question you all are asking; Nope. No I am not changing the name of the blog. It will remain My Fab Fifties Life.

    So Happy Birthday to me. I am Sixty hear me roar. Sixty years young. I feel strong and invincible. I may have been more fit at fifty physically, but emotionally I have never felt better. Bring it on sixty. You don’t scare me. I am sixty, hear me roar.

    It’s funny how sixty used to seem so old. I remember my Mom turning sixty…we had a big party because, well, it was monumental…she was old! I think about my grandmother when I was a small child. My memory of her was she was OLD. But the reality is, she probably wasn’t even sixty yet.

    No party for me. It’s just another year. A monumental year I am sharing with lots of people…of course all of my high school friends making the leap too as well as Magic Johnson, Emma Thompson, Marie Osmond. Also joining the club Allison Janney, John McEnroe, Fabio and Danny Bonaduce. Yep, we all are getting older – if we are lucky.

    And luck has an awful lot to do with it. Those dear to us who drew the short straw and found cancer visit them and take them too soon. Or a plethora of other causes that take so many before they reach this remarkable year. Sixty years young.

    Hard to answer questions to a travel nomad

    Living every day fully, that’s my mantra. We never know do we? Nor do we want to…I don’t anyway. I want to go out with a bang no matter what year and so I will get out of bed on Tuesday (my actual birthday) and I will rejoice that I can. I will roar. I will celebrate. I will be fabulous.

    Because seventy is knocking…the decades fly by. My children are adults, my marriage has endured nearly four decades, and I am here. I am sixty hear me roar.

    Go. Be. Fabulous.

    As a birthday gift to me, please sign up to follow our blog by clicking here.

    Everything Else Fabulous

    The Night Before Christmas

    I Still Believe

    Location: The Night Before Christmas

    I was only five years old when I learned there was no Santa.  I remember it clearly.  I actually wasn’t even five yet…just a few weeks shy.  It was Christmas morning 1964.   The little neighbor girl who was friends with my seven year-old sister came over to see our gifts.  My sister was showing her this cool play kitchen Santa had brought when Jodi said to my sister “you know Santa is really just your Mom and Dad.”  Those were her exact words.  I remember it 55 years later like it was yesterday.

    Well Jodi was the youngest child of a large family, where apparently, her older brothers and sisters had not managed to keep the big secret from her.

    I’m not sure either my sister or Jodi even realized I was standing right there.

    I remember my sister’s reaction – she cried and was very upset.  And I remember my reaction.  I thought to myself “Well, that makes perfect sense.”  And I never doubted it or worried about it from there on, although I didn’t let my parents or siblings know I possessed this knowledge.

    The Night Before Christmas

    Hawaiian version

    That same Christmas was the year I received my first book.  We had lots of books in the house, but I had never been given a book that was all mine.  Just for me.  That book was a beautiful copy of “The Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clark Moore.  It’s ironic that I received this book the same morning that I learned there was no Santa Claus.

    I adored that book.  I cherished it.  It had a rich, beautiful red cover and beautiful illustrations that I looked at for hours and hours and in later years read cover to cover.  I didn’t let my siblings touch it and it luckily got packed away and preserved in the decades that followed.

    When I was a young Mom I once again fell in love with the book as I read it each year to first my first-born son, and later both my boys.  I easily could recite the poem without the book and often did.  One Christmas my two children and I put on a play of the poem for the family, complete with costumes and scenery.

    The Night Before Christmas

    Some of the older copies in my collection

    It was in these years when my children were very tiny that I picked up an interesting book at the library (yes this was way before Google) all about the history of our Christmas traditions.  I learned so many fascinating things from that book, including the amazing history of the poem “The Night Before Christmas”.  It wasn’t until then, that I understood that many of the holiday traditions I took for granted, including Santa Claus himself, were fairly new developments in recent generations and the poem “The Night Before Christmas” was largely responsible for the image of St. Nicholas we know today.

    The Night Before Christmas

    The flocked version

    Until Moore wrote the poem in 1823 as a gift for his children, St. Nicholas had a Christmas Day arrival not Christmas Eve.  Moore’s image of the “jolly elf” arriving under darkness on Christmas Eve is one we still accept today, elaborated and secured for all time by the Coca-Cola image of Santa in the early 20th Century.

    Moore’s poem also brought into cultural acceptance the idea of Santa’s reindeer as he named them individually for the first time.  And of course the popularity of the later poem “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer” added additional holiday fun to that aspect of our Christmas cultural icon.

    Once I began to learn and understand the history of Santa Claus in the United States and around the world I became infatuated with the story and the history.  I started purchasing new and antique copies of “The Night Before Christmas” each year and through out the year.  As my love for the story grew as an adult, I also began to receive antique copies of the book from friends and family.

    I currently own more than 30 copies of the book.  My oldest of the collection is a 1905 edition.  I have some fun versions including two Hawaiian versions, a Mickey Mouse version, Holly Hobby and two illustrated by Grandma Moses.

    I have flocked version, a pop-up book version, and one of the most fun versions is a revolving picture book.

    But my favorite will always be the original one I received that Christmas in 1964, published in

    The Night Before Christmas

    My favorite – The book I received for Christmas 1964

    1960.

    The same day I received this amazing storybook of Santa Claus was the same day I learned there is no Santa Claus.  And perhaps my love and adoration for this poem all these years was my way of accepting that truth, while still believing in the Christmas spirit.

    So let’s believe together;

    A Visit from St. Nicholas

    AKA The Night Before Christmas

    By Clement Clark Moore

    “Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house

    Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

    The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

    In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

    The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

    While visions of sugar plums danced in their heads,

    And Mama in her kerchief, and I in my cap,

    Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap-

    When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

    I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

    Away to the window I flew like a flash,

    Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.

    The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,

    Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below;

    When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

    But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

    With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

    I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

    More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

    And he whistled, and shouted, and call’d them by name:

    “Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Vixen,

    “On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donder and Blitzen;

    “To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!

    “Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!

    As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

    When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

    So up to the housetop the coursers they flew,

    With the sleigh full of toys – and St. Nicholas too:

    And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

    The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

    As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

    Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:

    He was dress’d all in fur, from his head to his foot,

    And his clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot;

    A bundle of toys was flung on his back,

    And he look’d like a peddler just opening his pack:

    His eyes – how they twinkled! His dimples: how merry,

    His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;

    His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

    And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

    The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

    And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.

    He had a broad face, and a little round belly

    That shook when he laugh’d, like a bowl full of jelly:

    He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

    And I laugh’d when I saw him in spite of myself;

    A wink of his eye and a twist of his head

    Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

    He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

    And fill’d all the stockings; then turn’d with a jerk,

    And laying his finger aside of his nose

    And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

    He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle

    And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:

    But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight –

    Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

    From Kenya with love – Merry Christmas to you all!

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    Everything Else Fabulous  --  Inspire

    Gift Ideas for the Traveler on Your List

    A Video Blog – Gift Ideas


    Next Friday I will have a blog about beautiful Oman, but today I hope you enjoy our first video blog.

    Are you stumped for a gift for someone on your holiday list who loves to travel? Check out our video below, with our favorite travel items, sure to be a hit for any traveler you know. Lot’s of gift ideas for the traveler on your list.

    We hope our video helped you think of new ideas and we wish you happy shopping and a very Merry Christmas!

    PLEASE NOTE – these opinions are my own and I have received no compensation for mentioning these products in my blog.

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    Adventure Travel  --  Everything Else Fabulous

    Travel Wardrobe for The Grand Adventure 3.0

    My Wardrobe for Nine Months of Travel

    It’s almost time to go again. I’ve been very busy restocking all my travel needs, including refreshing my travel wardrobe. After three years of traveling, I still feel I can do better with my clothing choices and pack less. So once again as we depart for the third time, I’m narrowing down the travel wardrobe. My goal is to carry the perfect mix and match wardrobe that fits my style, my schedule and my budget.

    Travel Wardrobe
    Black shorts (JJill) Black linen pants (Nordstrom) anchor many looks. White tank from TravelSmith, Black Duster from Sierra Trading, Black striped t-shirt from Macys. The teal sleeveless linen top is last year from JJill and the orange tank with crochet embellishment is this year from JJill. Red cardigan has been in my closet for years.

    Last year, my Travel Wardrobe blog was a big hit, so I thought I would write again about what I am bringing with me as we embark on our fourth year of travel. When we left the first year I had way too many things with me. It was a hard lesson learned. Last year for the Grand Adventure 2.0 I based my wardrobe around black and white with splashes of colorful mix and match items. But I’m doing it a bit differently this year.

    Travel Wardrobe
    Khaki linen shorts and khaki rayon blend linen pants both from JJill. Denim jacket is returning again, red sleeveless linen top JJill. Orange long sleeve linen top JJill. Coral floral top (lined and acrylic) JJill. Navy print t-shirt from JJill .

    For the Grand Adventure 3.0 I’ve chosen bottoms (both long and short pants) in black, khaki and navy. These staples will be the basis of most of my wardrobe. I have t-shirts, tank tops and blouses I can mix and match in dozens of ways with these bottoms. I have chosen bright colors that compliment my skin and hair color such as red, navy, coral, orange and turquoise.

    Travel Wardrobe
    Navy linen shorts returning from last year (Travelsmith) and Navy cotton elastic waist crop pants JJill. Navy striped t-shirt Macys. Long sleeve linen and rayon boho print top JJill.

    Because I wear dresses a lot, especially in hot weather, I have purchased four new dresses. These are also in blue/chambray tones, bright oranges and corals and one black plaid dress.

    Travel Wardrobe
    The best thing about this plaid black and white linen dress from JJill is it has pockets! Wide brim hat from The Vermont Country Store

    Our itinerary this year (blog coming about this next Friday) has us visiting several Muslim countries as well as Israel where thoughtful conservative dress is both important and respectful. I have chosen some dresses with longer sleeves and some long sleeve but lightweight tops that I can wear with the navy, black and khaki pants.

    Travel Wardrobe
    I already know this is going to be one of my favorites this colorful and comfortable bright print linen sundress is from JJill as is the orange blouse.

    As always my suitcase will include hiking clothes (long and short pants and tops), running clothes for both hot and cool weather, and yoga clothes, as well as a coat, sweatshirt, hat and gloves. I have one cardigan sweater (red), one pashmina (also red) and one scarf (teal blue).

    I often get asked why I like linen so much for travel, considering how much it wrinkles. But for me, in hot climates, linen is the most breathable and comfortable fabric on earth. I sometimes steam wrinkles out in the shower, iron them, or hey just wear them wrinkled. Because my own body heat works the wrinkles out in no time. Linen is the fabric for me and my Grand Adventure wardrobe.

    Travel Wardrobe
    I love this teal beach coverup (Nordstrom) and the colorful Kaftan

    I didn’t buy a new swimsuit, because both my one piece and my two piece are in good condition. I have a new swimsuit coverup that I love and a new Kaftan to replace the one I wore until it fell apart. The Kaftan and the coverup serve like a bathrobe or lounge wear, in addition to beach wear. Both are colorful and comfortable. I also pack one cotton nightgown.

    Travel Wardrobe
    I love this 100% linen chambray colored dress with ruching by Crosstree Lane. It’s lightweight and comfy and has pockets! I know I will wear it often.

    Underneath it all I have two running bras (Wacoal from Nordstrom) that are new. I have four everyday bras (Dominque and Victorias Secret). I purchased Chantelle lightweight quick dry panties from Nordstrom. I also have two pairs of bloomers (one from Bikie Girl Bloomers the other from Undersummers). I love both of these for wearing under dresses in hot weather to avoid that horrible thigh chafing so many women deal with (including me).

    Travel Wardrobe
    I can mix and match these items for yoga, running and even hiking. Shorts and pants are Brooks, yellow and pink tops are from REI and my Washington State Cougar shirt is from the Cougar Store in Gig Harbor

    And what about the feet? Well, as usual, deciding what shoes to bring is my most difficult task. I have my running shoes that also serve as hiking shoes. I have a very comfortable tan colored walking sandal by Vionic that I can wear with most things and is great for my plantar fasciitis. I have a black flat sandal and my Keen’s which are great walking shoes and can also be worn in the water. That’s four pairs. Pretty sure that is all I am taking. That’s the fewest pairs I have ever packed.

    Travel Wardrobe
    This coral crepe dress by Eileen Fischer is going to be my go to for dressier events but I could also wear it to the beach. Cool and comfy and I love the color!

    To top it off I have a wide brimmed straw hat, a cloth floppy brimmed hat, my hiking hat and a baseball cap. I also have several headbands that I like to wear for running or to the beach.

    So my entire wardrobe for nine months consists 29 pieces to mix and match (pants, shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, dresses, blouses, sweater and jackets), 7 workout pieces, 5 hiking pieces, 4 pairs of shoes, 4 bras, 7 panties, 1 coat and one sweatshirt. In one suitcase. Boom.

    Travel Wardrobe
    This Chambray linen shirt dress can be worn when I need to cover my arms but the weather is hot – cool and comfortable it also serves as a duster. By Eileen Fischer

    I’m packing fewer earrings and necklaces too…I have just a couple of each that are my go-to for both comfort and style. Everything else will stay behind this year.

    We’ve added a few new non-clothing items this year including a travel yoga mat, an REI nylon hammock that folds up tiny and a travel steamer/iron. These are all things we have discussed in the past we would like to have. These items join several other wonderful travel essentials such as our collapsible cooler, our titanium french press and battery charger. To see the entire list check out our newly updated blog What’s in My Suitcase.

    Travel Shoes
    The chosen shoes

    Speaking of suitcase – The Grand Adventure 3.0 continues with the REI roller bags we purchased more than three years ago. We had to replace the wheels on one bag but other than that these bags have been worth every penny, serving us well on 95 flights so far. In addition Arne has his backpack (also three years old) and I have a carryon roller bag that I purchased last year. I also have a large “purse” that I stuff full on flight day but use a small over the shoulder bag for every day. And finally we really like our day pack that folds up tiny and weighs nearly nothing.

    Travel Jewelry
    Five earrings and four necklaces. Significantly fewer than last year but I found I only wore a handful of the ones I brought with me last time. Simple.

    We depart in less than two weeks and I have begun to organize and sort all of the above as well as our medicines, first aid, toiletries and other items that we will take on our journey.

    PLEASE watch for a blog next Friday for our FULL ITINERARY for The Grand Adventure 3.0. We are so excited to share the incredible places we are going. Countdown to lift off 11 days!

    If you don’t want to miss a single blog about the adventure, please subscribe to the blog today – click here.

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    Travel Wardrobe
    Everything Else Fabulous

    What’s In My Suitcase? My Travel Favorites.

    Location: Around the World

    When we head off again in September for another year of travel our suitcase will not look the same as when we left last year.  We have learned what works, what doesn’t and what are our favorite things.  So here are some of my travel favorites in my suitcase.

    We added a foldaway lightweight nylon hammock from REI.  We have seen many people using these on beaches or at resorts and we think we can put it to good use.  It’s big enough for two!

    Travel Favorite Hammock
    Eno Hammock REI

    For three years I have been using a beach towel as a yoga mat, but this year after much research I purchased the lightest weight yoga travel mat on the market.  It’s foldable and weighs just under one pound.

    I’m always in search of an iron so this year I purchased a travel size steamer iron by Steamfast.  Dual voltage is essential for international use. Review coming on this later.

    Travel Favorite Iron
    Steamfast Mini Travel Iron

    We have loved the collapsible colander we have had and this year added two small collapsible bowls with lids.  We think these will come in handy both in the kitchen and elsewhere.

    Battery Power Pack – possibly our most used and most valuable item. Mophie is the brand we have and we spent $40 on it. We use it everyday  it fits in a purse or pocket and holds enough charge to keep our phones charged for several days. Definitely one of my travel favorites in my suitcase.

    Packing cubes – not sure how I traveled all those years without packing cubes because they are now my best friend.  Especially as a fulltime traveler it’s so great to keep kinds of clothes and other items categorized in my suitcase.

    Travel Favorite Packing Cubes
    Packing Cubes

    Cooler – our collapsible portable lunchbox size Igloo cooler was a gift from our niece and it is just perfect for our travel life, picnics and beach days.   We have even used it to keep things (Mayo, cheese, eggs) cold as we traveled by car from one lodging to the next. A very handy item and portable and one of my travel favorites in my suitcase.

    Ice pack – purchased for $2 this ice pack fits perfect in our little cooler and really changed the way we travel.  Such a simple item with a big impact.

    Freezer Bags and trash bags – with endless uses for storage and packing we have used gallon size freezer bags and kitchen size trash bags to keep things dry, to keep things wet, to organize, to protect and to store. From wet shoes to dirty clothes and olive oil to medicines plastic bags make our life easier.

    Travel Favorite Collapsible Cooler
    Cooler

    Notecards and post it notes – having a package of notecards with envelopes and post-it notes has come in handy. I like to leave notes for our Airbnb hosts or tuck notes in a package I’m mailing or a multitude of other uses these small and simple items are one of my travel favorites in my suitcase.

    Packing tape – our roll of packing tape has done a lot more than wrap up boxes.  We used it to fix a splintered iPhone cord and to make a cardboard sleeve for our butcher knife. We repaired a book binding and even a hat.

    Clothespins – I initially packed these to use on the Camino but they have come in handy in so many ways.  As hangers when we don’t have any, to secure and close bags, to hold back mosquito netting on beds and of course to hang our laundry.

    Manicure kit – it’s not always easy to find a place to have a manicure, and I’ve learned over the years I need to care frequently for my nails or they get cracked and nasty.  So I carry a small manicure kit that serves my needs while on the road.  It takes no room at all and is one of my travel favorites in my suitcase.

    Scrabble – since leaving the USA in November 2016 we have played more than 550 games of Scrabble. Wow that sounds crazy!  But we love the game and the only problem is we are now both really good at it and we find ourselves occasionally in a bit of a stalemate!

    Travel Favorite Headphones
    Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones

    Noise cancelling headphones – this is Arne’s favorite item on this list.  We both have Bose headphones we use on the plane. Arne also uses his sometimes to listen to music off his iPad or watch movies.  He votes this as his travel favorite in his suitcase.

    French Press – we have a small REI VERY LIGHTWEIGHT titanium French Press and I love it.   Almost all the places we stay have a hot water pot and we love to make French Press each morning instead of drinking the usual Nescafé.  Traveling with a French Press is one of my travel favorites in my suitcase.

    Foldaway daypack – A few months into our journey we added this item and have used it a ton. It folds up into a little square but when open it is perfect for hikes or city walks when we want to carry a sweater, beach towels, water or just about anything for the day.

    We have a flat lightweight plastic cutting board and one small knife to use for picnics.

    Travel Favorite French Press
    Titanium French Press from Snow Peak for REI

    What’s in my suitcase? My travel favorites, the bare necessities and the tried and true.

    Watch for a blog this coming FRIDAY all about MY TRAVEL WARDROBE! Countdown to lift off 16 days!

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    My Travel Favorites