Boating on the Mississippi River on Father’s Day…Minnesota historical sites….

Greg, Camille, Miles, Madighan and Maisie on the Jonathan Padelford on the Mississippi River on Father’s Day.

On Father’s Day, Tom and I separately joined our respective families for the day’s activities.  He went with Tammy and TJ to a Minnesota Twins game at Target Field in Minneapolis while I joined Greg, Camille and the three children for a paddle-wheel boat ride on the Mississippi River.

A solitary duck standing on the dock while our boat took off from the pier.

With only one camera and Tom off to the Minnesota Twins game, I was the only one of us in possession of a camera.  He took some photos at the game using his phone which we’ll share in tomorrow’s post.

We wished there was enough time in everyone’s schedule for us to be together with our families as events arise.  Unfortunately, this just doesn’t seem to work well and we find ourselves in different directions several times a week.

The closest bridge is the 10th Avenue Bridge.  The bridge behind it is the I-35W St. Anthony Falls bridge, the replacement for the I-35W Mississippi Rover bridge which collapsed on August 1, 2007, killing 13, injuring 145.  See details below.
The I-35W Mississippi River bridge (officially known as Bridge 9340) was an eight-lane, steel truss arch bridge that carried Interstate 35W across the Saint Anthony Falls of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. During the evening rush hour on August 1, 2007, it suddenly collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring 145. The bridge was Minnesota’s third busiest, carrying 140,000 vehicles daily.[ The NTSB cited a design flaw as the likely cause of the collapse, noting that a too-thin gusset plate ripped along a line of rivets, and asserted that additional weight on the bridge at the time of the collapse contributed to the catastrophic failure.
Immediately after the collapse, help came from mutual aid in the seven-county Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area and emergency response personnel, charities, and volunteers.  Within a few days of the collapse, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) planned a replacement bridge, the I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge. Construction was completed rapidly, and it opened on September 18, 2008.”

It not that so much that we mind being apart for a portion of the day.  It’s more about trying to experience both of us together with each other’s respective families when possible.  Luckily, we’ve been able to have it work out on a few occasions with hopefully more in our remaining 17 days in Minnesota.

As we entered the first lock on the river cruise.  These locks are the most northerly locks on the Mississippi River.

When my two sons were young (now ages 47 and 50) and we were a one-parent family (I was divorced at a young age) on a few occasions I took them on the Jonathan Padelford riverboat for cruises on the Mississippi River.  I wish I could remember the last time we did this. 

The massive gates behind us closed after we entered the main area of the lock.  The water began to rise.

Most likely it was prior to 1977 when I purchased our own boat which we kept docked at a marina on Lake Minnetonka during the short summer months.  In the cold winter months, we stored the boat (we progressed in the size of the boats over the years) in an indoor storage facility in the country.

As the water was rising in the lock…

Once we had our own boat, I doubt we went back on the river other than on a few group activities planned with friends, co-workers or through school activities.  With the cost and required upkeep of owning a boat, as a single parent, it was impractical to pay fees for other boating expeditions.

Although I haven’t felt nostalgic since arriving in Minnesota, (other than seeing and spending time with the people we love) and when driving over the Gray’s Bay Bridge last week when we visited friends Connie and Jeff, I felt a wave of nostalgia wash over me as we made our way along the Mississippi River on Father’s Day.

The Stone Arch bridge, from this site, was “built by railroad baron James J. Hill in 1883, the bridge allowed for increased movement of people and goods across the river. It served as a working railroad bridge until 1985 but is still seen as a symbol of the railroad age.  Rehabilitation of this National Historic Engineering Landmark began in 1980. Traffic on the bridge is now characterized by a much slower pace. Mostly used by walkers and bicyclists, the bridge is one of the best ways to enjoy the view of St. Anthony Falls.”

The familiar buildings comingled with the new buildings reminded me of the love I’d felt for Minnesota for over 40 years.  For Tom, this was over a lifetime, since he was born in Minneapolis, many moons ago.  Minnesota is the only home our children knew with Tom’s two children, Tammy and TJ (now ages 46, 42) having been born here.

Minneapolis is a world-renowned cultural center.  The Guthrie Theatre is recognized for its quality productions and thought provoking artistic displays and renditions.  Click here for more details.

My eldest Richard was born in California and son Greg was born in Bay City Michigan.  But, I moved to Minnesota when Richard was a toddler and Greg was an infant.  It was the only home they’ve known. 

As shown, Greg still lives in Minnesota as a family of five and Richard has lived in Nevada since he was 21 years old.  Soon, in 17 days, we’ll be staying with him in Henderson for a three-week visit.

The famous Gold Medal Flour building has been vacated and the flour production has been moved to another location.  The building was sold to a developer to be built as future condominiums.

With eyes wide open, the kids enjoyed the boat ride with that precious child-like wonder we all find adorable.  This wasn’t their first time on a riverboat on the Mississippi but it easily could have been based on the smiles on their faces and their diligent observation of everything around them. 

Later in the day, Tom and I reconnected at the hotel after which, once again, we headed out for dinner at Champ’s, a local favorite at the moment.  We’ve only found a few restaurants befitting my way of eating that stays within our daily budget during this period of time.  Fine dining is not on the agenda during this period of time.
Tomorrow, we’ll be back with photos from Tom’s Father’s Day, Minnesota Twin’s game with Tammy and TJ.  The remaining river photos will be posted in the near future.  See you soon!
Have a great day!

Photo from one year ago today, June 20, 2016:

In Bali, one of our two cooks went outside to greet the peanut vendor to make a purchase. For more photos, please click here.

An evening to remember…Old friends…Memories of our old life…New memories to behold…

Wild turkeys are everywhere in the metro area.  Sue took this photo for us this morning of this proud male.  Great shot, Sue!  Thanks for sharing it!

I don’t know where or how to begin.  Saturday’s night’s get together of old friends who just so happened to be our old neighbors left us reeling with a mix of laughter and tears.

The many years we spent together living on the peninsula, socializing with the utmost of ease, regularly, and often with aplomb and style was intermingled with some of the most candid and revealing conversations we’ve ever had with friends.

A portion of the living room in Sue’s new home.

The laughter came easily along with in-depth conversations about life, love, politics, world affairs, current affairs, science, medicine and technology made for lively times together.  At times, we were all talking simultaneously and oddly grasping every word spoken.

We came to know each other’s foibles and idiosyncrasies and yet, accepted and embraced them without judgment or critique, without harshness or ridicule.  That’s the way it was our friends on the point.

The dining area with a pass-through to the kitchen and custom made cabinets for Sue’s exquisite glassware collection from all over the world.

Last night, when some of us gathered at Sue’s beautiful new home (Chip passed away in May 2012) we found ourselves laughing and crying as we relived memories of times since long past, of the commonality of our interests, of the fulfillment of our dreams.

Cozy banquette in kitchen.

Chip and Sue became our “role models” of how to spend retirement years, when they each found a comfortable place in their lives for personal growth and exploration, of new experiences they’d longed to incorporate in their pre-retirement lives, never quite having had the time. And, with a sense of adventure and sheer delight, they blissfully traveled together.  We were intrigued.

When Chip passed away in May 2012, Sue chose to postpone the memorial service until friends and family could all be present to attend in order to celebrate his meaningful and profound life.  I was honored when Sue asked me to speak at the service.

The Monet inspired decor was clearly evident in the kitchen’s design.

Knowing how emotional it would be I printed a copy of this tribute I’d written about him in a post dated June 1, 2012, which may be found here.  Later, in July, I wrote this post describing the memorial service and the honor I felt in being asked to participate.

Chip’s sorrowful passing occurred after we’d decided to travel the world.  The memorial service occurred only three months before we left to begin our journey.  But, from there both Tom and I experienced a powerful commitment to attempt to try to fill a tiny gap in Sue’s life, by including hers in ours, as much as possible.

Tom and I both felt totally at ease in Sue’s new home.

For all the amazing times we’d spent as a foursome, we were left with a new series of memories in spending quality time with Sue each and every weekend before we left.  If we could somehow, collectively share in the loss of this fine man and bring some healing to one another in the process, our leaving would become less painful. 

During this past almost five years, we’ve stayed in close touch with Sue and the other friends/neighbors.  We never felt as if we were too far away and last night this was confirmed as we sat around that same gorgeous round table we’d all shared with Chip for decades as we all recapped our lives, our challenges and the changes we’ve made as we’ve continued to learn and grow in these older years of our lives.

Nelleke and Dave brought craft beer made by our former neighbor at the Excelsior Brewing Company.

When Sue, Tom and I finished the evening alone, filled with great conversation, appetizers and drinks, the three of us poured out our hearts, unabashedly, and unashamedly allowing the memories of times passed to flow, and the hopes and dreams for the future to fill in the hollow recesses of aching hearts. 

We’ve come full circle and a new “normal” has emerged for Sue, Tom and I.  The healing has catapulted to a new level and all of us are prepared and filled with a sense of abundance in carrying on, with memories of “old” firmly in place and “new” memories being built for the future.

Sue had saved a menu I created for a dinner party we hosted when she and Chip
had returned after their winter holiday at their Florida home.  We couldn’t believe
she’d saved this!

We have another such night upcoming on July 1st when we’ll all meet at Jamie and Doug’s home for “happy hour” and a boat ride and then off to dinner at a local restaurant we all frequented in years passed.  We have no doubt, we’ll emerge from that evening with the same sense of wonder and gratitude we experienced last night.

Thank you, dear readers, for inspiring us to share these intimate thoughts in writing; of times, old and new, that will surely follow us well into the future.


Photo from one year ago today, June 19, 2016:

In Bali, the sunset view and reflection in the infinity pool.  For more details, please click here.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads and granddads.. A parade and a “Parktacular Day”…

Maisie, me and Madighan while Greg went to find Miles after the parade ended.
We wish all the dads out there in cyberspace, including Tom, our sons TJ and Greg, a very happy and special Father’s day.  May your day be one of family gatherings, surprises, adventures, and activities centered around love and appreciation.

Miles, a Cub Scout member, distributed free bottled water while participating in the Parktacular Parade in St. Louis Park.

Today, as is the case during many family activities while we’re here in Minnesota, Tom and I are splitting up between our respective families.  Tom is headed to a Minnesota Twins baseball game with daughter Tammy and son TJ, while I’ll be on the popular Jonathan Padelford, a riverboat on the Mississippi River with son Greg, daughter-in-law Camille and the three grandchildren, Maisie, Miles, and Madighan.

Maisie and Madighan pose for a photo.

Now, as I’m busily preparing today’s post which must be completed well before 10:30 when we drive to Greg’s home (Tom will drop me off) with a plan to pick me up later in the day after each of our outings has come to an end.

Maisie also won a prize after sending the hitting the hammer to send the ball to the top of the gauge.

Yesterday was another action packed day.  By noon, we were seated on the damp grass under a tree near Wolfe Park in St. Louis Park to watch the annual Parktacular Parade.  Miles was actually in the parade as a Cub Scout distributing bottled water to attendees in the sidelines.

Madighan wins a Nemo water toy after hitting the sledgehammer bell.

We watched every group that passed by while we watched for Miles who finally appeared, a ‘halfhearted smile on his little face that appeared to indicate, “What am I doing here?” As he quickly scurried past I hurriedly snapped a few photos as shown here today.

Greg’s brute strength hit the adult sized bell ringer to the highest point with little effort.  

We stayed seated on the grass for most of the remainder of the parade. By 1:30, we were with Greg and the kids at the carnival located on the park’s grounds.  What a site to see!  The games, the water slides, and the typical carnival-type activities got the kid’s heads swimming with excitement.

Madighan coming down the big water slide at full speed.

Gee, it had been a long time since we’d participated in such an all encompassing comprehensive park activity barring Vincent’s fifth-grade graduation “park day” of a few weeks ago.

Miles, making his way down the giant water slide.

The kids were reeling with enthusiasm but we managed to take a few photos and spend time with them during part of the activities.  We had to be on our way by 2:30 pm to make our way back to the red SUV requiring a 20-minute walk. 

Maisie quickly sailing down the huge water slide.

With the upcoming 20 minute drive (not much traffic on Saturday) back to our hotel, we arrived just in time to shower and dress for a 4:00 pm gathering at long-time friend (and neighbor) Sue (of Chip and Sue), who was hosting an intimate gathering of our mutual old friends at her gorgeous new home.  Tomorrow, we’ll share photos and details of that fabulous evening.

Common Canadian Geese and chicks on a leisurely swim on Wolfe Lake in St. Louis Park.

It was fun to be with Greg and the grandchildren in the playful venue.  The sun was shining on a perfectly cool and sunny day. Although the carnival area was certainly crowded, it wasn’t impossibly so and we could easily maneuver about the grounds.

Princess Leia and a Stormtrooper.

Grandpa Tom purchased all-day passes for the three grandchildren while we followed them around as they excitedly moved from one activity to another.  The time we had allotted flew by in a flash.  Before we knew it, it was time to go.

Darth Vadar and other Star Wars characters on a passing float.

Back in the car, having planned our timing to avoid stress, we couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces.  Soon, it would be time for adult chatter to begin, spending valuable time together with our old neighbors and dear friends. 

Riders on horseback from a local riding club.

The neighborhood wasn’t the glue that held our group together.  It was the companionship and love that brought us together and, held us together although some of us are no longer there.  More on that with photos tomorrow.

Many people seem to fear clowns.  What’s inspired that?

Have a happy Father’s Day with your loved ones if circumstances prevail.  If not, may you find a joyful place in your heart this day and always.

The pretty scene on Wolfe Lake in located in the park.

Photo from one year ago today, June 18, 2016:

In Bali, motorbikes were loaded with products to be delivered to a variety of the tiny shops in neighborhoods which sell candy, soda, cigarettes, and snacks.  For more details, please click here.

Tom’s US haircut…Disappointing?..Prices throughout the world….Another family outing today and fun evening tonight with friends…

Maisie and Tom in front of Cost Cutters.  We arrived at 10:30 am but had to wait for the late arriving employee.

Tom’s had haircuts all over the world, from his first in Belize in 2013 to his most recent in Fairlight, (Sydney) Australia with another a few days ago here at a Cost Cutters located in Minnetonka, Minnesota. 

He’s paid from a low of US $1.85  (plus a $.93 tip) in Savusavu, Fiji in 2015 (as shown in the photo below) to a high of US $32.74 (plus a $5.00 tip) in Singapore in 2016.  The price for Cost Cutter’s was US $15.50 (plus a $3.00 tip).

As indicated in the photos, the cost of the cut seems to have little bearing on the quality of the haircut.  Honestly, with much trepidation, I think the Cost Cutter’s cut was the least desirable in appearance. 

The recent cutting accuracy was fine but the styling was lacking and Tom’s having a heck of a time keeping me from teasing him about it.  I try to keep my trap shut but it’s nearly impossible every time we get under the bright lights of the elevator in the hotel.

In Fiji, the hot, humid weather inspired Tom to go for the shortest cut he’d ever had. Here’s the odd part…the cost…for the haircut taking almost 20 minutes, it cost a paltry FJD $4, USD $1.85!  Tom left another FJD $2, USD $.93 tip which Kumar greatly appreciated. See this link from November 5, 2015.

He politely reminded me that he never teases about my hair or wardrobe.  Although on occasion, if my lipstick is smudged or something else is askew, he’ll kindly point it out that it needs immediate attention.  I appreciate his observations.

When we were on a cruise ship early in the year and he pointed out that a piece of TP was hanging out of the bottom of my shorts, I certainly appreciated it, while turning around and wondering how many people had noticed that.

Years ago, my friend Lynda and I were at a wedding and a man in a lime green leisure suit came out of the restroom with a long stream of toilet paper attached to his shoe.  Lynda and I had to leave the area due to our uncontrollable laughter. 

At the time, after I mentioned his embarrassment, she said: “No one will ever remember this.”  But, here I am 40 years later and I still remember his lime green suit and stream of toilet paper.  Now, more mature, I’d have pointed it out to him rather than let him return to the reception hall in such a state.

In Singapore, a cut by a stylist in a pricey salon was the only option.  The haircut was SGD $44, US $32.74 which included a 20% discount and was more than he’s paid anywhere in the world thus far. Click here for the link from that post. 

However, Tom’s haircut is certainly not comparable to the TP incidents.  Although, each time I look his way, I can’t help but giggle.  He keeps “giving me the look” reminding me to cease the relentless observations along with the comments.  I’ll see what I can do.  Sometimes, we just have to laugh.

As for activities over the past 24 hours…Tom, Tammy, and Vincent attended Vincent’s gun safety certification ceremony at his camp after which the three of them took off for lunch at Chipotle (Vincent’s favorite) and then to see the movie, Wonder Woman.  As mentioned, I’d already seen it with Maisie and stayed behind to work on a few things.

When Tammy offered to drive and return Tom to the hotel at the end of their day, Tom tossed me the keys to the red SUV and there I was without any specific plans and an afternoon to myself.  How odd.
After uploading the post, I dropped off my laptop in our room, filled my mug with Crystal Light iced tea and ice (I can now drink more liquids as my gastrointestinal issues have improved) and headed out the door.  Forget the idea of staying in the room to work on Tom’s clothes.  I was a woman-on-a-mission.
Tom, before his haircut on Thursday.

First, I headed to one of my favorite store from my old life, Old Navy, to find a few tank tops, knowing that the skimpier the better would be ideal for heat in Marloth Park upcoming in eight months. 

I remember sitting on the veranda in the scorching heat and humidity all day waiting for “visitors” wearing tee shirts with short sleeves wishing I had tank tops.  Although I don’t wear tank tops in public (too old for such skimpiness), they’re useful when we’re by ourselves in hot weather. 

Well, not surprisingly, I was able to purchase seven good quality tanks for a total of $46.  Wow!  What a deal!  I’d never find such a bargain outside the US.
Next, I headed to TJ Maxx to purchase some type of cover-up for the cool evenings on upcoming cruises. 

The modern salon finally opened while we waited.

I didn’t want to buy a bulky space-hogging sweater but found a lightweight roll-in-a-ball cover up that will help keep me warm in the chilly AC on ships.  At $15, I was thrilled to have found the perfect solution. Then I was off to my final destination, a quick stop at a Lunds/Byerly’s grocery store (they merged since we left) to buy more heavy cream for my coffee and an appetizer to bring to tonight’s party at friend Sue’s home.

Before entering the market, I called my sister Susan in Las Vegas to tell her we’d be arriving in a mere three weeks.  As always, it was wonderful to hear her voice.  Speaking through the navigation system in the red SUV, we chatted for over an hour, anticipating seeing one another soon with sheer delight.

Finally, we said goodbye and I headed into the market for the few items I needed.  I couldn’t recall the last time I shopped in a grocery store without being concerned that Tom was waiting for me outside while sitting on a bench or in a rental car. 

Tom didn’t want a buzz cut this time.  With temps predicted at 120F (48.8C) in Las Vegas this upcoming week, a buzz cut may have been ideal.

He’s never rushed me when I’ve shopped but I’ve always been mindful and considerate that he was waiting.  Most recently, in Fairlight, Australia, not only was Tom waiting but so was Bob, our delightful landlord, who always insisted on taking us grocery shopping during our six weeks in his holiday home.  During that period,  I had two kindly men waiting for me to get done, with nary a complaint.

As I was nearing the hotel, I rang Tom to discover he’d returned to the hotel after his day with Tammy and Vincent.  Upon hearing he and Vincent shared one of those giant popcorn buckets during the movie, I didn’t say a word about when we’d go out to eat.  I knew he wouldn’t feel hungry for quite awhile.

The final product resulted in a neat trim but the styling wasn’t quite as good as usual.

By 6:30 pm, we were back in the red SUV heading to the same restaurant we’d visited several nights ago, Avenida, a fusion Mexican/Asian establishment with very good food.  Tom had the Asian and I had the Mexican, modified to my diet.

Back at the hotel, we lounged and watched two episodes of Scandal.  By 10:45 we dosed off for a good night’s sleep.  Today, at noon, we’re meeting Greg and the grandkids at the annual St. Louis Park Parktacular event.  Later in the day, at 4:00 pm, we’re off to friend Sue’s new home and the gathering she’s put together for our benefit. 

We’ll be back tomorrow with photos of this busy day.  Enjoy your weekend as well!

Photo from one year ago today, June 17, 2016:
This group of cute Balinese kids stopped for a photo with their white horse.  For more details please click here.

The action packed days continue…Tom’s at it today!…Last night’s special “chef’s” dinner with friends…

We quickly drove over the Gray’s Bay Bridge on our way to Connie & Jeff’s home.

Yesterday was another whirlwind day for me while Tom was able to kick back and unwind a little while I was out and about with Maisie. Today will be my day to stay put while he and Tammy pick up Vincent at camp, attend a gun safety clinic, and then take Vincent to lunch and see Wonder Woman.

Tammy arrived at our hotel around 11:00 am to pick up Tom, leaving me with a free day and a vehicle. Wow! That’s a first. I have a few errands to attend to and will return long before she drops Tom off at the end of the day.

This cheese is the best we’ve ever had. It can be purchased at  Click this link if you’re a cheese enthusiast and curious about “Belton Farm Red Fox.” It’s pricey but is a five-pound block and could be shared with others. Although once you taste it, sharing may be out of the question.

The three are headed to Chipotle for lunch and then to Plymouth Grand 15 movie theater to see Wonder Woman at 1:10.  Hopefully, it all runs smoothly, and the timing works out. Vincent is chomping at the bit to see Wonder Woman.

Had I not seen the movie last week with Maisie, I’d go with them but I have my day planned with the errands and to work on Tom’s new clothing, removing tags, folding and packing, as I’d done for mine last weekend when there was a lull in my schedule.  

Tom, sitting at the table at Connie and Jeff’s table on their veranda.  I guess you call that a “deck” here in Minnesota.

Today is the halfway point in our six-week stay in Minnesota.  We’ve been so busy the time has flown. However, we feel we’ve had a lot of quality time with family and friends, with much more yet to come.

Speaking of friends, last night we visited the home of friends Connie and Jeff, whom we met 25 years ago when we all joined a gourmet club. The club lasted about a year, but the friendship with Connie and Jeff continued over the years resulting in many good times together, laughing, talking, and sharing good food and drink.

As mentioned in yesterday’s post here, Connie is a Cordon Bleu-trained chef. With the utmost ingenuity with husband Jeff, they made a fantastic, perfect-for-my-way-of-eating meal that was delicious. 

View of the lake from their veranda.

It was the first time we had a steak that wasn’t grass-fed in a few years, and I must admit the flavor and tenderness surpassed that of grass-fed meat we’d purchased in a variety of countries.  We’ve found grass-fed meat generally to be less flavorful and less tender.  We’ve accepted these facts due to the added nutritional value and safety of my diet. Thus, last night was a bit of a splurge.

On the recent cruises, some of the beef was purchased in countries that produce grass-fed meat as a matter of course. But, in the US, grass-fed beef is expensive and not a staple for most meat-eating households. Of course, we’re not cooking now, so it’s of little concern. 

Look!  You can see Tom’s hands flying while he talks to Jeff.  That’s my guy!

It was terrific to see Connie and Jeff in their lakefront home located in the highly desirable and prestigious Deephaven area of Lake Minnetonka. Since we arrived, it was the first time we drove through my old familiar area of Lake Minnetonka, where my two sons grew up. 

As we passed over the Gray’s Bay Bridge, I felt a wave of nostalgia wash over me for the first time since we arrived three weeks ago.  I’d been thinking and focusing on people we love, not locations. But that drive left me grabbing for the camera.

This is Candy, a sweet Staffordshire rescue dog that is one year old and very well trained.

I couldn’t take many good photos as we moved along in the busy construction zones in every direction. I’m determined to return to that area to take photos in the next few weeks, which we’ll post here. Tom grew up in the city, but I was always a suburban kind of girl. I guess those differences have ultimately played a role in the mingling of our different ways that have proved to be a vital part of our special connection to one another.

We dined on Connie and Jeff’s veranda overlooking a gorgeous bay of Lake Minnetonka while their adorable one-year-old rescue dog, Candy, couldn’t get enough attention from both of us. At first, she barked at both of us but within minutes was all over Tom for attention. 

With a few of my choice high-pitched voice sounds and a bit of nuzzling, she mainly was mine for the remainder of the evening, nudging my hand, raising a paw, and sitting on my feet.  Periodically, she approached Tom for more of the same, keeping her eyes on me all the while. It reminded me (not that I needed reminding) how much I love animals and how well they respond to me.

The table was set with a nautical theme and the most fabric-like paper napkins we’ve seen, which Connie purchased in Provence. Note my little bottle of liquid chemical-free sweetener, a few drops of which I add to sour cream to make my favorite salad dressing. The meal was exceptional.

Of course, there’s the companionship of old friends and…the evening, along with the exceptional food flowed as one would expect with “Chef Connie” and “sous chef” husband Jeff as the ideal hostess and host. 

As usual, when invited to a friend’s home, we picked up a good bottle of wine on the way as a host gift. Luckily, I selected an excellent French Malbec that they seemed to enjoy during the dinner. 

With Connie’s vast experiences in Provence, France, French wine was in order. I never tasted it, although my mouth watered over the prospect. As my gastrointestinal issues continue to improve, there was no way I’d risk a relapse by drinking alcohol in any form.

We arrived shortly after 5:00 pm and didn’t head out until 10:00 pm with a “doggie bag” with some of the finest cheese we’d had to date, Belton Farm Red Fox.  Its quality reminded us of the caraway cheddar we’d purchased in Tasmania last Christmas, but its flavor surpassed the intensity and texture of the caraway cheese.

The seasoned, roasted cauliflower with grilled sirloin steak cooked medium rare/rare to perfection. Dinner was served after the cheese and other appetizers. The side dishes included a green salad with various add-ins, potato salad, and a heated-on-the-grill baguette.

Note the name of the cheese in the above photo, which can only be purchased online. Perhaps, someday when we’re settled somewhere, we’ll have a giant chunk shipped to us. It’s beyond compare if you love cheese as we do.

Earlier in the day, it was spent with Maisie. She went with us for Tom’s first US haircut since 2014 before Christmas on the Big Island of Hawaii. After a quick trip to Michael’s for a craft activity to do with Maisie, we dropped Tom off, and Maisie and I spent a busy rest-of-the-day.

That’s it for today, folks! We’ll be back tomorrow with more new photos!  Have a day filled with your favorite activities!

Photo from one year ago today, June 16, 2016:

What a sight this was in Bali! What a resourceful biker, hanging his laundry to dry on a stick and his bike.  Resourceful, eh?  For more photos, please click here.

Poolside posting… Family photos…Upcoming professional-chef-prepared dinner tonight at lakeshore home of old friends..

Our adorable granddaughter Madighan during a timeout.

Yesterday, as it turned out, Madighan was with me, not Maisie, as planned initially, who is here with us today.  Once again, we have a fun day planned to engage in activities befitting an active 10-year-old.

Granddaughter Madighan was pushing a swing with her toy cat in the seat.
The traffic on Wednesday was so bad that the usual 20-minute drive to Greg”s home resulted in a 90 minute round trip. We barely arrived back at the hotel in time for breakfast.
Tom was waiting for us, and we all had breakfast together. Each day I eat the same items for breakfast, including two hard-boiled eggs, a few sausages, and two little packs of cream cheese. The kids like the self-cooked waffles, bacon, or sausage with typically a bowl of Lucky Charms or a muffin on the side.
Madighan was sitting in the sand at a park.

It’s enough to hold me until dinner, although on the nights when we dine after the kid’s soccer games, it’s often close to 9:00 pm.  By then, we’re both ready to chow down, not necessarily sound so close to bedtime.

Madighan’s a good soccer player.
Tonight, we’re invited to friends Connie and Jeff’s home for dinner, and no doubt we’ll have a fantastic meal, although I’d asked Connie to make it easy for herself. Connie is a professional chef with extensive travel experience. What an exciting line of work!  In 2010 and 2013, Connie trained in Paris and London at the world-renowned Le Cordon Bleu.
In Minnesota, Connie is a chef and caterer for many clients throughout the Twin Cities and events at the Minnetonka Yacht Club.  Connie travels to Provence, France, each year for more catering events and honors her vast Mediterranean skills. We’ll certainly report back with photos from their lovely lakefront home on Lake Minnetonka in the desirable Deephaven location.
Contemplative during her time off the field.
Yesterday afternoon, Madighan and I made our way through more traffic to the New Hope Cinema and Grill to see the new Smurf’s movie. Cute! This was my fourth kid movie in less than two weeks.  
She had no idea I was taking photos of her. Most photos I usually take are of wildlife and nature.  Taking photos of human subjects is a new experience for me that I’ll continue to pursue in the US.

On Monday next week,  Miles and I are planning to see the new “Cars” movie. Feel free to contact me for reviews on kid movies. By the time we leave Minnesota in almost three weeks, I’ll have seen most of the G-rated summer movies!

But, it’s fun to watch the smiles on their little faces while watching the movies,  regardless if I care for the movie or not.  Being with them is all that matters.
Yesterday Tom and TJ had a great day at the St. Paul Saints baseball game, spending quality dad and son time alone together.
Tom and TJ”s view from their seats at the CHS Field while watching a St. Paul Saints baseball game.
It was another meaningful family day with much more upcoming in these next weeks. Having the free shared online Cozi calendar has undoubtedly helped keep track of our busy days and nights, significantly when family members can freely add to it or change events at will.
Maisie and I are off for another fun day together!
Tom and TJ selfie.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, June 15, 2016:

In Bali, we were in awe of the ornate detail in the Hindu statues. For more information, please click here.

Another good day in the neighborhood…Minnesota photos…

All of the photos shown today were shot when we drove back roads to Monday night’s restaurant.

Yesterday was a quieter day than those of the past almost three weeks. At about 11:00 am, Tom drove to Coon Rapids (about 40 minutes from the hotel) to pick up Sister Beth to take her to the airport to return to Milwaukee.

Taking his time visiting with two of his six sisters, he returned to the hotel by 1:00 pm. So I decided to take advantage of my free time to work on a few important projects in his absence.

This is what I always loved about living in the western suburbs of Minneapolis; long driveways, big lots, and massive trees and vegetation.

I started with booking our flight to Las Vegas, Nevada, on August 1st. Then I decided to go through all of my new clothes, remove price tags, and fold the many items, most of which I neatly placed into my new suitcase. 

In the process, I went through the few drawers of clothing in the small chest of drawers noting any items I may need going forward, making a shortlist on my phone. When I was finished with my clothing, I began assessing Tom’s wardrobe, realizing he needed at least four more short sleeves button-up shirts suitable for evenings on cruises. 

Wild vegetation bordered by maturing trees often creates a country-like feel.

I’d already purchase four shirts for him at the Macy’s sale, but that would hardly be enough when clean laundry is always an issue. So when Tom returned, I was busy shopping online at the Macy’s sale for more of the same shirts in more colors. They were on sale from around $60 to only $20 to $22 each. 

With no shipping fees or sales tax, it made sense to order online.  Also, I ordered a third pair of Capri jeans in yet another shade in the same brand I’d purchased only a few days ago. 

There are many parks in heavily wooded areas.

Finally, styles have changed, and the stores are selling high waist pants that are considerably more flattering for most women than that crazy hip-hugger, low-rise jeans with four-inch zippers.  Try zipping up those jeans after a big meal!  I was thrilled, to say the least, and ended up buying three pairs of Capri-length jeans to replace my heavier and bulkier jeans. 

Capris may be out of style, but I don’t care much about fashion, nor will it matter in any of the countries we’re visiting in the future. Function, comfort, and durability matter to me. The high-quality jeans retail for $98 each, and I purchased them for $58 each at the current “Father’s Day” sale prices.

A dog-friendly park with a level path for those pleasant evening walks.

The time flew by while Tom busied himself with his usual online interests while I continued organizing and packing. At this point, when it’s time to finish packing for Las Vegas, I can be done in 15 minutes or less.

After the accomplished day, I didn’t feel like going to a restaurant for dinner. So instead, we drove to the Jimmy John’s shop in Wayzata (via back roads when the traffic was horrendous), ordered our unwiches (no bread), and headed back to the hotel to lounge on the sofa in our suite and have our meal at the TV trays Tammy loaned us weeks ago.

There are many swampy and algae-filled bodies of water in Minnesota, along with its over 15,000 lakes.

We plugged in the HDMI cord from my laptop to the TV, and for the first time since we left Sydney, Australia, on April 22nd, we watched one of our Graboid downloaded TV shows, an episode of Scandal.  Mindless and easy to watch, we got lost in an easy pastime we’d hadn’t done for such a long time.

After we ate, I changed into my nightshirt, climbed into bed, and placed my laptop atop a pillow on my lap. I had to get today’s post started and hopefully completed since picking up Maisie tomorrow at 8:00 am to make it back in time for the hotel’s “fun” self-serve breakfast the kids love so much.

Cattails are commonly found in lakes and shallow bodies of water.

Today, Tom is off to a St. Paul Saint’s baseball game with son TJ while Maisie and I entertain ourselves. Maisie and I will end the day at Madighan’s soccer game starting at 6:00 pm. By 8:00 pm, Tom and I will be on our way to meet at a restaurant for dinner. 

It will be another action-packed day with each of us going our separate ways to maximize the time we can spend with our respective children and grandchildren. In the evenings, it’s enjoyable to recap our day’s experiences spent with family and friends.

Natural habitats such as this are a haven for birds and other wildlife.

May your day be action-packed and rewarding!

Photo from one year ago today, June 14, 2016:

During an uncommonly heavy rainstorm in Bali, I went out to the freezer in the garage to get some ice.  I saw this long black thing, referred to as an omangomang in Balinese, moving along the garage floor.  I called out to Tom to come to see it. He grabbed the camera and came running. Creepy.  Was that an eye looking out at us? For more details, please click here.

Finally, photos of Minnesota…The hectic schedule continues…Dining out almost daily…

Avenida, Mexican-Asian Kitchen located in Minnetonka, Minnesota, was quite good.  We’ll return soon.

Last night, I dropped off grandson Miles at home at the end of his “date with grandma,” which began at 8:00 am until almost 5:00 pm when I returned him to his house. 

The traffic was outrageous, taking more than 50 minutes to drive about 10 miles and slightly less on the return to the hotel. Making this round trip twice a day, three or more times a week, results in plenty of drive time, at about three hours per day. 

Gosh, I’m not used to this. Then again, after not driving for two years in the South Pacific, I must admit I do get a kick out of the new Ford Explorer’s digital equipment, especially being able to make a call or do a text through the vehicle’s navigation system using voice commands only. 

Tom looked a little tired in this photo taken at dinner last night, but he perked up after a good meal.

Listening to my favorite radio station from years past, 107.1, has also been relatively entertaining. Of course, when the grandchildren are in the car buckled into the back seat, the radio is off, allowing us to chat in typical kid speak. Talk about “entertaining!”

Having each of my three grandchildren one-on-one over these past weeks has been the best possible way to enhance our relationships further. Quickly, we’ve found our way to a new level of closeness we never even had in years past, especially now that they’re older.

But, not surprisingly, in many ways, they’re the same little people they were when we lived here in 2012, each unique in personality and demeanor, each engaging in their special way. Luckily, over these years, we’ve stayed in close enough touch that they immediately felt comfortable being with us, whether it’s just one of us or when we’re together.

The ambiance at Avenida is pleasant and well-lit.

Tom’s interaction with his three grandsons is different, spending valuable time with them as a family as in TJ’s two sons Jayden and Nik, and now with some alone time with Tammy’s son, Vincent. 

Last Friday, Tom took Vincent to the family cemetery in Winsted, Minnesota, after Vincent had expressed considerable interest in ancestry. Tom, the guru, was delighted when Vincent showed interest in this topic, and Tom was all over it. Afterward, Vincent and I watched a good kid movie together, Rise of the Guardians.

We both look forward to more interactions with all of the grandchildren and our adult children, and their significant others during the remaining 24 nights in Minnesota. And, of course, we’ll undoubtedly spend more time with Tom’s huge family.

The combination of the Mexican and Asian decor was a bit odd, but it’s trendy. What do we know?

Also, we still have many upcoming events planned with friends. It doesn’t appear we’ll have time for multiple friends “get-togethers,” but we’re taking advantage of every available moment during this period. 

As for dining out at least six times per week, it’s working out well.  We’ve held up well with our budgetary goal of spending an average of no more than $30 per day for our meals, especially when breakfast in the hotel is complimentary.

The fact that we aren’t drinking any alcohol, ordering appetizers and desserts, is very doable even with generous tips we’re leaving for excellent service. We continue to try new mid-range restaurants, finding it easy for me when I mostly order Cobb or chopped salads with lettuce, chicken, boiled eggs, bacon, cheese, guacamole with a side of full-fat sour cream as the dressing.

My chopped salad with a side of Mexican season shredded beef.

Last night, we decided to try a Mexican-Asian restaurant, Avenida, which, although about $10 higher than we usually pay, we found to be very good. It was odd to see this two-in-one style of the menu…part traditional “gourmet-type” Mexican food and options for slightly elevated Asian dishes. This must be something new in the US.

Tom ate two bowls of complimentary tortilla chips (without the salsa) and ordered an Asian Sweet and Sour Chicken dish for his entree while I took a few tastes of the salsa without the chips. 

Again, as shown in today’s photos, I ordered a chopped salad with a side of shredded Mexican seasoned beef. It was the best such salad I’d had since we arrived and I hope we’ll return for more in these next weeks.

Tom’s entree, Sweet and Sour Chicken. He picked out all the bell peppers, leaving him with a third less on his plate.

It’s all good; the loving interactions with family and friends; the hotel, Country Inn & Suites; the meals at the hotel and in restaurants; the red Ford Explorer SUV and its gadgets; the extra car we borrowed from son Greg (thanks, Greg!), a Ford 350, 4-door, diesel (only Tom drives this) and the excellent quality clothing we’ve been able to purchase at reasonable prices sans sales tax. (The donations pile for Goodwill is growing).

The only negatives are the traffic, the crowds and the waiting in line. But, we can console ourselves with the fact that the trade-offs are undoubtedly worth it…being together with those we love. 

It doesn’t hurt to know that the backed-up traffic and crowds won’t be a permanent challenge for us when in 50 days, we’ll be in a relatively quiet and somewhat remote area in Costa Rica with beautiful memories to sustain us.

The journey continues…

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, June 13, 2016:
 Praying Mantis on the edge of the infinity pool in Bali. With his/her reflection in the water. For more photos, please click here.

A stormy day…Power outages…Credit card frustration…

Across the Bay in Vancouver, we could see the Olympic Mountains. At first, we thought this was a view of clouds, not mountains.

Yesterday morning, after our usual complimentary breakfast at the Country Inn & Suites country kitchen, we sat in the comfy lounge/living room to work on the day’s post.

With the storm raging outside, we were content to be indoors while the rain pelted against the windows. It took a little longer than usual to upload the post due to our distraction over the weather. We were both curious to see what was transpiring on the news.

By 1:00 pm, I was out the door amid a few sprinkles with heavily overcast clouds for my first visit to a Target store for the first time in many years. Tom desperately needed a new pair of black jeans and always preferred Wrangler’s essential brand, which Target sells.

His old pair of black jeans had developed white lines where they were folded, most likely due to overwashing and years of use. I asked him to come along with me to try them on, and he agreed. But I knew how much he dislikes shopping and offered to go on my own.

When I arrived at the Ridgehaven Mall Target Store in Minnetonka, I could tell something was amiss. Upon nearing the entrance, I could tell the lights were out, undoubtedly caused by the storm. 

A tall totem pole in Victoria.

Entering the store, an employee greeted me, offered a cart, and explained the power outage would prevent the sale of any refrigerated foods. The current generator wasn’t sufficiently powerful to allow for ample lighting, especially toward the store’s back.

Well, the men’s jeans were located in the back of the store. Bound and determined to find Tom the black jeans, I headed toward the department; my little LED flashlight in hand. From a lack of recent use, the battery was dying, providing very little light.

Luckily, a helpful employee offered to assist me in finding the correct size in near-total darkness. Alas, we were in luck and found Tom’s oddball size, 36/30 (short for a guy at 6′ feet tall). I was thrilled. I had little interest in returning to the store on another day.

After rolling the cart around the dimly lit store, I managed to find a few toiletry items, two large handled insulated mugs (our two such mugs desperately needed to be replaced), and a big glass Ball jar to hold our iced tea. (I wasn’t about to drink one more glass made in that toxic plastic bottle Tom had been using in our hotel room).

When I went to check out, my Visa credit card was declined.  There was no reason why this should happen. I used a different card but felt frustrated. Immediately upon returning to the red rental SUV, I called the number on the back of the card only to be told my shopping in the USA was suspect. 

“Was the card stolen?” they asked. Ha! That’s ironic. Here I’m using a US credit card in the US, and its use is suspect. Then, they asked for a phone number to verify my identity when their “caller ID” showed my new SIM card number, which they didn’t recognize according to my record. 

Pond view from the moving vehicle.

The only number they had in their system was my old cell phone number from years ago. I guess I never bothered to update it using our Skype phone number in Nevada. 

When I tried to give the rep that number, oh, she didn’t like that.  When I reminded her to look up my account and our world travel with charges from many countries, in addition to many years of flawless payments paying it off each month, she reconsidered, especially when I asked to speak to a supervisor.

In moments, I answered her identity-verifying-questions correctly, she apologized and released the card for use. I supposed I understand they’re trying to prevent theft of the card, but it wasn’t very pleasant nonetheless.

A wild deer was grazing in a park.

Leaving the Target parking lot, I headed to the Payless Shoe Store in the same outdoor mall only to discover a handwritten sign on the door that read, “Closed due to the power outage.” I returned to the SUV and was back on the road again, this time to return to Macy’s for their huge sale.

As we take every possible moment of free time to shop to replace our old and worn clothing, a trip back to Macy’s was on the agenda for me. I’d already purchased enough for Tom and a few items for me, but now it was my turn to finish it up.

Within an hour, including time in the fitting room, I was done.  I’d purchased six items, valued at $397 for a paltry $94 considering all the discounts the store was offering. One item was $79, for which I paid $20. Wow! With a sale like that, I was actually enjoying the shopping and loved every item I’d selected.

Historic house in Victoria.

Now, minus a few other items, we’re almost done shopping. What a relief!  Starting fresh with new items feels rewarding and elicits more enthusiasm than one might experience by “adding” to a wardrobe instead of “replacing” a worn wardrobe.

Back at the hotel, I raved to Tom about my deals. He smiled, happy that I’d enjoyed the bargains but in his usual manner had little interest in seeing what I’d purchased. I suppose for some; it’s a “guy thing.” For others, gender is of little significance in determining who’s interested and who’s not, concerning their beloved partner’s wardrobe.

A short time after I returned to the hotel, it was time to meet TJ, Sarah, Jayden, and Nik for dinner next door at Grizzly’s. We had a great dinner together amid idle chatter among the six of us. We lingered at the table for quite a while, and then, they were on their way after goodbye hugs all around. Another good family get- together!

Hilltop view of Victoria, British Columbia.

Last night, I began preparing today’s post to bring our laptops down to the hotel’s living room while watching the Tony Awards on the big screen TV (larger than the TV in our suite). 

As tired as I was, it made no sense to wait to prepare a post in the morning when I’d have grandson Miles with me for most of the day, picking him up at 8:00 am this morning in time to return to the hotel for the breakfast which ends at 9:30 am.

I haven’t decided what he and I will do tomorrow, but I’m sure once we chat in the car, we’ll come up with a good plan. Whatever we do, Miles and I will have a good time. Tom will be gone part of the day to attend a railroad association meeting, returning later in the day.

That’s it for today, folks. Finally, I’m close to wrapping up the photos from Victoria, Vancouver Island, British Columbia and, I apologize for not taking many photos so far here in Minnesota.  Soon, I’ll be out of photos and have to get the “show on the road” sharing new and interesting photos of Minnesota.  Hmm…maybe that’s what Miles and I can do tomorrow, weather permitting.

Have a good day! 

Photo from one year ago today, June 12, 2016:

Ants carrying off a dead gecko in Bali. For more photos, please click here.

Tornado weather rolling through…Commotion, stress and pushing in line…Is this the US we remember?…

Hand-carved wood houses.

It’s not the people…It’s the lifestyle, the traffic, the number of people, and…the sense of urgency; time constraints, digital and Wi-Fi issues, fender benders, meetings, playdates, softball games, and the hard-working, overbooked lives of many Americans and others throughout the world. For us, it’s glaring while here in the USA.

We don’t fit in. I ask myself the question, “Did we ever fit in?”  Looking back over our past lives, we too got caught in the hamster wheel of life, perpetually trying to get through the activity of the moment to get to the next. 

Flower samples of blooms in Butchart Gardens with notes naming each variety.

Living in the moment was nearly impossible. Rushing, speeding, and eating in the car with greasy hands on the wheel as the result of consuming the less-than-desirable quality of fast food or what we perceived as more healthy carry out in an attempt to get us through another long, painstaking day.

In our old lives, we counted on both hands the number of people we knew taking anti-anxiety drugs. Now it’s even more.  I spotted this article today in the New York Times, which may be found here about the rampant use of the drug Xanax and antidepressants in adults and children. It’s worth reading this story.

More flower samples.

Now there’s a stress-relieving device called a “fidget spinner” for use by those who can’t sit quietly and reflect, read a book, watch a movie or relax. When hands and fingers go idle after clicking on keyboards and screens day and night, such a distraction is needed by many to keep their digits active.

Tens of millions of “fidget spinners” have been sold. See this article for details. A few days ago, I noticed Tom twiddling his thumbs (for the first time) while we sat in standstill traffic, surely an anxious response to the stressful road conditions. 

The stress was evident in the lines in his brow, the scowl on his face. Yet, after almost five years of feeling calm 98% of the time, he maintained his cool, avoiding his occasional “overly grumpy” demeanor that may arise on busy travel days.

It’s always fun to see local handcrafted works.

As for me and my usual “overly bubbly” (and at times annoying) demeanor, I’m holding my own. Spending time with the people we love is a welcomed buffer and stress reliever, although traveling to them takes its toll, particularly on Tom.

Since we arrived 16 days ago, on no less than 10 occasions, we’ve been asked, “When will you move back to Minnesota or even the US?” We hedge, anticipating a reaction that may not be positive when we respond with “It’s not in the cards.”

Invariably, they continue with, “What about when you physically cannot travel anymore?”  We always remind ourselves of the beautiful 90 plus-year-old couple we met at dinner on our first cruise in January 2013. They’d been traveling the world for decades and still had no plans to stop, to settle down. 

Handcrafted sculptures.

Health provided, that could be us. And, if health fails, there are plenty of countries throughout the world where we can get the healthcare we need, stay until we’ve improved, and perhaps eventually stay until we can continue. 

But why worry about that now? Worry is the single highest cause of stress which ultimately has an impact on health. We don’t worry about the future. We plan it. We embrace it. We dream of it. 

Most of all, every day, we strive to “live in the moment,” cherishing wherever we may be, whatever we may be doing. At the moment, we’re calmly situated in the hotel’s “living room,” sipping great coffee with “real” cream, watching weather reports and maps on TV, illustrating where the storms and tornado warnings are headed. 

Metal sea sculptures for sale at the gift shop in Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Today will be a quiet day for us, barring the continuing thunder.  Satisfied after having spent considerable time with family and friends this past week, we’re laying low, maybe heading out for a little shopping for jeans for Tom. With no sales tax on clothing in Minnesota, it makes sense to shop here instead of in Nevada.

We continue to replace most of our clothing with new shorts, jeans, tee shirts, shirts, and underwear to avoid the cost of shipping items in the next year or so. We’ll bring the items we’re replacing to the local Goodwill store.

The abundance of selections, colors, sizes can be daunting.  Yesterday, when I spent 45 minutes in Macy’s purchasing shirts and jeans, I left before I’d found everything on my list. The waiting for assistance, the line at the fitting room when all were full, the processing time for a single sale only reminded me of how adapted I’d been in my old life to all the chaos and commotion. Now? Not so much.

The shop was bustling with tourists.

We’ll continue to enjoy these remaining 26 days in Minnesota and then will be off to Nevada for three weeks for more traffic and commotion, softened by the joy of spending time with son Richard in Henderson and sister Susan in Las Vegas. 

Then, we’ll be on our way back to new and familiar remote locations; quiet countryside, a barren desert, desolate Antarctica, and the exquisite savannahs, plains, and bush in Africa. 

May your day be free of stress!

Photo from one year ago today, June 11, 2016: (Please see paragraph below photo caption)

In Bali, a fisherman on a tiny homemade raft most likely fishing for squid which is caught close to the shore. For more photos, please click here.
P.S. It was two years ago today our ship arrived in Sydney, Australia.  We were both horribly ill with the worse virus of our lives (caught on the ship), each with a fever and feeling dreadful.  We barely remember the three-hour flight from Sydney to Cairns and the excruciating wait at the rental car counter. How we ever managed to find the house in Trinity Beach baffles us to this day.  It took us three more weeks to recover, but we were thrilled to be settled in the lovely holiday home and beach community. None of life is exempt from stress brought on by circumstances that befall us all. Even our usual relatively stress-free life may become stressful from time to time.