KN, p. 289 “On the Road to Portugal”

Sheila and I just returned from a trip to Portugal. (We helped a family member move across the ocean and get settled into an apartment.) When this opportunity came up, we jumped at the chance to help out one of our favorite people on the planet and to get on the international road again. Let’s be honest – we enjoyed quite a bit of sightseeing in between hanging curtains and shopping for dishes.


This overseas trip had its quirky (but solvable) challenges, generally not faced in the USA. Lucky for you, we did the research, so you don’t have to. (with no bodies found anywhere) Take a look:


A washcloth (called facecloths in some areas) seems to be a USA item, since no European hotels or B&Bs have ever provided them for us and the staff always look at me like I’m nutso bonkers when I explain what Sheila is looking for. Very few stores seem to carry them either, including some home furnishing shops we checked out. Pack one (or two) in your suitcase.


Universal adapter: we in the USA have different shaped electrical outlets than people in most of the rest of the world. SO, when we travel we need to have outlet adapters. They don’t convert the electricity, but when we insert the correct adapter into the European outlet, we can then plug our electrical items into it and charge our laptops and hairdryers. Some places require a converter for the electricity flow as well. Check with the destination residence to see what is required. This adapter worked well for us in Portugal. They are sold online thru Walmart and in Europe in FNAC stores, among others.








Jet lag: It takes time for the body to adjust when changing several time zones during a flight, because our sleep patterns/circadian rhythms are interrupted. For each time zone crossed, experience tells us that it takes a day to return to feeling normal. So…five time zones crossed in a flight (in general) translates to five days of recovery. So what are the symptoms most people complain about?

  • Insomnia
  • Inability to concentrate (brain fog)
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Stomach upset
  • Headaches

Yes, it’s real. I got into the car two days after our return and sat in the driver’s seat, intending to drive us to the grocery store. And stared at the dashboard. I couldn’t figure out what all those icons were for. Seriously. Sheila took over the wheel and I didn’t drive until a couple of days later, when my brain had returned to normal function. Sheila’s symptoms were sleep and headache related and she never did experience the brain fog that so clearly affected me.


The money: Traveling to Europe? Most countries there use the Euro for legal tender.

The Caribbean has its own variety of currencies. Canada and Mexico each have their own as well. Take the time to learn the exchange rate in the country you’ll be visiting and plan your travel budget accordingly. For the most part, it’s better to use a multibank ATM to take out your needed cash for purchases. The rate at a multibank ATM is better since the banks in that network agree on an exchange rate. A regular ATM will charge more. Exchanging your home country physical cash for the local cash inside a brick & mortar bank will generally get you the worst rate of exchange. The differences are not huge, but if every dime counts, there’s an app on your phone that will reveal the rate of exchange for any given purchase. Be aware that it often changes daily as a result of global conditions.


The Chocolate: Dad used to say that you could tell about the quality of a country’s food by their desserts. If you go by that rule alone, Portugal has terrific food. Well, it does, in addition to the desserts in the multiple cafes that seem to be on every corner in the cities. The chocolateries compete with each other for the fabulous bars and barks and truffle-type offerings. Most also serve hot chocolate that is perpetually ready for the eager customers in line.

Our favorite chocolate spot in both Porto and Braga is Chocolataria Equador, where the delightful shopkeeper (shown here in Braga) expertly used her phone translator app to navigate our conversation and sales. The cocoa beans are imported from Ecuador and the chocolate is then handcrafted in Portugal. Oh, my, yum! Not only is the chocolate superb, but the fillings in the bars are inventively added to create exceptional concoctions. Worthy of multiple trips to the shops…you know…for just one more bar.


Any questions? Ask away in the comments below. Travel the world and enjoy!



KN, p. 276 “About the bats…”

Last October, the pest control guy arrived for his once-every-three-months inspection/treatment of the outside of the house (a must in our buggy neighborhood). Our goal is to keep the mice and insects outside where they belong, and since we have a crawl space that runs the length of the house, that’s not always easy in wooded areas. The critters like to hide there, safely out of sight of predators like hawks and snakes.


Much to our surprise, he discovered that we had bats in the attic. Yup, I hear you: ‘bats in the belfry?’ LOL   I asked how he knew, since he had not entered the house. Waaay up at the peaked roof line, he had seen what appeared to be bat droppings next to an attic vent. He climbed up the staircase to the attic (which is used only for storage) and found four bats hanging upside down, asleep, next to that vent. EEEEEKKKKK!!!!


I had heard noises in the attic, but thought a lost bird had flown in and out again, an occasional occurrence over the years. Nope. Bats. That explained Hammett’s unusual curiosity and odd woofing at the attic entrance overhead.


The pest control guy called a buddy of his who could remove the unwelcome guests and relocate them elsewhere. Anywhere outside would have been fine, but he had an interested customer lined up. We have plenty of bats in the neighborhood, so we weren’t worried about an exploding mosquito population if these particular bats moved away.


The bat guy (henceforth known as B.G.) would take care of everything on…wait for it…Halloween. Lots of eye-rolling and laughter over the timing.


The day arrived, and we got a ‘can’t come’ call. B.G. couldn’t make it for another few days.
So, I posted this on social media:

The jokes started pouring in from fans of our critter sagas, as the bats flew past my office window with an enthusiastic display of swooping.


From animal enthusiast, M:

“Let’s see, it’s Halloween and there’s a pandemic. There’s a full moon that hasn’t occurred on Halloween since the 1940’s, and it’s on a weekend. The time changes at midnight on Halloween, for an additional hour of 2020…AND you actually have bats, for Halloween. Gee, what could possibly go wrong??” 


From former colleague, J C:

“100 mosquitoes flying around the attic, 100 flying mosquitoes, slurp one down and fly around, 99 still flying in the attic…” 


Well, one thing led to another, and B.G. never made it back to the house. It’s been seven quiet months, with no noise from the attic. We had some electrical work done in April, requiring access at the opposite end of the house, but there were no bat sightings. Nobody whooshing or shrieking overhead while the electrician worked. All was silent.


HA! The pest control guy arrived for the latest quarterly visit and we chatted about the bats (or lack of same). He shot some chemicals toward the house at the ‘bat end’ and one of the invaders flew out. He must have been sleeping while the electrician worked, or else he had been visiting with friends.


Soooo…we made another call to B.G. He was surprised that a bat was still hanging around after all that time, and since I hadn’t heard anything, I was as well. B.G. arrived and went to investigate.


He took a quick look and descended from the attic, a bit wild-eyed. Instead of telling me that he had been freaked out by dead bodies, he kept one hand on the step railing, as if needing the support. “You have a dozen bats up there, hanging from the rafters in the center of the attic.”


“A dozen?” Good grief. I could barely get the words out. “Can you catch them?”


“Yes, but my bag isn’t big enough. I only expected the original four.”


Gulp. I found a couple of old pillowcases and handed them over. The helper, a nice young lady acting as the ‘go-fer’, stayed outside in the front yard, and was charged with counting any that flew out of the vents, so the boss could keep track of how many he still had to catch.


B.G. got to work.


Four flew out, then another six. Then another four. Okay, not twelve, but maybe the extras had been hiding in the rafters. I relaxed and turned to chat with the helper. Alas, too soon. We weren’t done yet. A couple more flew out and when B.G. left the attic this time, he shook his head. He and the helper compared notes. 23 bats. My jaw dropped. Lots of head shaking all around. Those original four were VERY happy up there.


While the liberated bats waited in nearby trees, B.G. sealed off re-entry with screen cloth and promised to return in two weeks to complete cleanup and any additional work needed.


On the appointed day, B.G. discovered another bat in the belfry and collected him. An even two dozen.


We are bat-free at this writing, and quite happy about it. The guano customer (bat poop) is happy as well, along with the new bat owner that needed an elite mosquito attack group.


I saw a squadron of bats swoop past the office window late last night, probably looking for another entrance to their former abode, but at least we know the remaining bat family members are still on guard outside.





KN, p. 267 “Thankful in a Challenging Time”

Some years are better than others, that’s the pattern of life. 2020? Without any hesitation, 2020 should be buried in a deep, dark hole somewhere and forgotten for all time. 36 days to go.


Sheila and I have always enjoyed our gatherings with family and friends, and as you are aware, most of the recipes and posts during the last nine years have been generated because of those gatherings, whether professional or personal. But, the last eight months have been a blur of cancellations of conferences, events, and people scrambling to make sense of life in the USA and the world, as the Pandemic and politics became the overriding daily themes. We couldn’t turn on the TV, listen to the radio, or open a newspaper without those two topics jumping into the forefront.


So, how can we be thankful for anything except each other? That’s a biggie, for sure, to know that you can count on your nearest and dearest to help and support you whenever you need them, to share both the pain and the joy.


We might be stretching our thankful list this year, but I have to believe that the only way we’ll get through this is to find the silver lining in as much as possible during the truly weird times.


  • We are thankful that we met a wonderful Orthopedic Surgeon who took over Sheila’s case when her recovery wasn’t going well. He truly listened and made significant adjustments to her rehab.


  • We are thankful for her marvelous PT guy. Because of him, she was able to walk 2 miles yesterday without her crutch. She’s tired and sore, but she did it!


  • The bats are still in the attic because the bat guy was in a car accident. We are very thankful that he’s fine. He’s looking for a new car and the bats are okay up there until he does.


  • The washing machine died. A crazy series of events led us to having to do the wash in a too-small sink for three weeks, rather than getting the new washer two days after ordering it, as promised. Our thankful moment? We got a washer upgrade for our troubles, for no more money.


  • We are thankful for the best plumber in the business. We’ve used him for 14 years for all our plumbing needs, and that tells you something.


  • We are thankful that we each tested negative for Covid. Bridget, too.


  • I am REALLY thankful that the new car dealer is cooperating and that a file has been started at Corporate. There may be a recall of the car on one of the issues. We’re not crazy for pointing out the concerns, and now they know it as well.


  • We are thankful that we can make a living that pays the bills.


  • That new roof is still sound, even after hailstorms and windstorms, and more rain in three days than we’ve seen sometimes in an entire summer.


  • We are thankful for GoToMeeting, an oldy-but-goody secure system for meeting visually online. We’re going to try cooking with pals this weekend through the magic of cyberspace and laptops.


  • We are thankful for phone calls, texts, and messages with family and friends, both near and far. They make the weirdness bearable.


  • We are thankful that the anti-erosion system (the front gardens and new stonework) are holding through all the storms.


  • I’m thankful for all our books and time to read them. We’ve visited places in them that we can’t go to IRL right now, but we’re making a list for the future.


  • We are blessed to have this marvelous Kerrian community. We have come to know many of you personally and it always brings smiles to our hearts whenever we make that connection.



Life will return to normal, with jammed concerts, crowded conferences, full stadiums, big parties, open nursing homes, full churches, in-person book signings, noisy restaurants, real vacations here and abroad, visits with the grandchildren, and hugs of a dear friend – some day.


Keep the faith, wear the masks, wash your hands, and stay six feet apart from people not in your tribe, and we’ll get there. We’re ever hopeful.


Happy Thanksgiving, one and all!



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