Shopping in the USA…An unfamiliar experience… Driving a car…Is it akin to riding a bicycle?

I was standing under a vine trellis when Tom took this photo.

It is almost incomprehensible that we’ve been in Minnesota for 10 of our 42-night stay. The time couldn’t be passing more quickly. Each day brings us to another level of discovery with our grandchildren through conversations, playing, and spending precious time together.

Of course, we also love spending time with our grown children and their significant others after being away for so long. Now that we’ve spent time with the immediate family with much more to come, we’ll have an opportunity to visit with more of our friends.

In the process, we’ve spent time with some of Tom’s dozens of family members, all of whom are warm, friendly, and delightful to be with. Tomorrow, we’re picking up Tom’s sister at the airport. Betty, “Sister Beth,” to be exact, is a nun who lives in Milwaukee and is flying to Minneapolis for a week.

Buildings on the grounds of the Butchart’s Gardens.

We’ll spend time with Sister Beth and another sister Patty (where Betty will stay during her one-week visit). Shortly before we pick up Betty, we’ll head to a market to buy chickens, veggies, and salad to share dinner with Sister Beth and Patty at Patty’s home.

I prepared most of today’s post last night while flipping through channels on the TV in our hotel room after a hectic day. In the morning, Tom’s son TJ, his partner Sarah and grandson Jayden came for breakfast at our hotel, Country Inn & Suites.

As we entered the Japanese gardens.

After a fun time chatting in the breakfast room, we all headed to one of the two swimming pools where Jayden and TJ played ball in the pool while the three of us cheered them on while watching. Later in the day, they left to attend a graduation party while Tom and I headed back to our hotel room.

After these past days in a flurry of activity, I felt a little antsy. But, I knew the remainder of the day required I head out to the local shopping center, Ridgedale Mall, for a little much overdue shopping. It was time to replace my old, worn bras, the three of which made it through three years of world travel. I couldn’t eke out one more wearing and washing.

Plants and structures in the Japanese gardens.
Before I could shop, I had to face the reality that I needed to drive myself. Tom offered to drive me the short distance since I’d yet to drive the Ford Explorer SUV since we rented it ten days ago.
I haven’t driven a car since we were in Kauai, Hawaii, 27 months ago. Over these past two years in the South Pacific, I’d never once driven a rental car with the steering wheel on the opposite side of that which we were familiar in the US and on top of it, driving on the opposite side of the road. I’m not a good enough driver to tackle both of these scenarios.
A brass dragon in the Japanese garden.

Oddly, as adventurous as I may be at times, I hesitated to drive again. But, the mall was calling me, and I turned down Tom’s sweet offer to guide me. Kissing him goodbye, I headed out the door, shopping bag in hand (I don’t own a handbag), ready to reacquaint myself with driving a vehicle.

By the time I exited the hotel’s parking lot, I was comfortable behind the wheel of the new, bright-red SUV. It’s akin to riding a bike. Don’t forget. Plus, it helped that I knew my way around, having no difficulty finding my way to the mall.

We weren’t able to identify these large red berries.

As I entered the vast mall, I caught my breath in my throat.OMG, I was on sensory overload. The abundance, the prices, the selections left me in a state of sheer wonder. In these past 55 months, nothing we’ve seen can compare to my shock of seeing the stores, the displays, and the confusing options.

I walked out of the mall a few hours later after purchasing my three bras at Victoria’s Secret and ten shirts for Tom in Macy’s, including five fine-quality tee shirts on sale from $34.50 to $11.99 each and; five Bass short sleeve solid color Explorer shirts (no wrinkles) made specifically for the traveling outdoorsman, regularly priced at $68.50, on sale for $19.99 each.  

Yellow flowers line this small creek.

Tom doesn’t necessarily get excited about clothing, but he expressed a touch of enthusiasm over finally having some new solid color shirts. He doesn’t like plaids, patterns, flowers, prints, or stripes. These were impossible to find in Australia, especially if they were “wash and wear.”

Finally, I headed back to our hotel where we had leftovers from dinner at Greg’s on Saturday night, heating it in the microwave in our suite. It’s handy having the small fridge and microwave which allows us to avoid eating in restaurants every night.

Decorative lawn ornament.

With both of us wanting salad to accompany the re-heated main dish, we headed next door to Grizzly’s, ordering two dinner salads with two sides of sour cream from which I made our usual dressing. We don’t have a salad bowl or utensils to toss a salad with our sauce. Buying the salads from the restaurant made it easy to throw the dressing in each of the two disposable containers.

We walked under this tree limb structure to gain further access to more gardens.

Early this morning, we’re picking up grandson Miles to spend the day with us. It looks like Miles and I will see “Captain Underpants” at 2:20 pm while  TJ picks Tom up at the hotel to join him in his Monday night horseshoe games. 

After the movie with Miles, we’ll return to his home, and shortly later, I’ll take Maisie to her Girl Scouts meeting at 6:00 pm, after which we’ll all find our way to the various soccer fields for the three kids for their practice and games. Whew! Busy. Fun.

Happy day to all!

Photo from one year ago today, June 5, 2016:

Last June, in Sumbersari Bali, we made good use of our cabana, as shown here in the afternoon sun. For more details, please click here.

We split up for an evening with family…Garden photos continue…

Pretty flowers in deep pink.

We knew at some point it would make sense for Tom and me to split up to spend time with our respective families; Tom’s two children, Tammy and TJ, their significant others, and three of our six grandchildren. 

Pretty in pink.

My son Greg and his wife Camille, and three of my grandchildren live about 30 minutes away from Tom’s two kid’s homes. We knew at times we’d each spend days and/or evenings with our children and grandchildren, apart from one another.

Unusual pine tree.

It had been a long time since Tom and I had been apart for more than an hour. Many have classified us as “glued at the hip.” But, during this period in the US, it makes a lot more sense to split up for specific activities.

Bronze carousel horse in the garden.

Last night, Greg’s three kids each had soccer games at three different fields, two adjoining, and three at another area four miles away. Greg and I watched Maisie and Miles’ game while Camille was at the distant field watching Madighan’s game.

Butchart Gardens has many wide-open spaces on the sprawling property.

It reminded me of when my two sons, Greg and Richard, both played ball simultaneously in two different fields. As a single (divorced) mom, I’d run back and forth between the two fields to watch both of them play t-ball, softball, and baseball. 

Fluffy-looking small flowers.

That was a long time ago.  Richard recently turned 50, and Greg is fast approaching 48 how the time has flown. Being back in Minnesota, where all of our four children grew up, is a reminder of how the decades, not just the years, have brought us to today, living this nomadic lifestyle, visiting our family for but a glimpse of time. 

The nine weeks in the US will surely fly by in a flash. The first week will have passed by tomorrow, with five weeks remaining in Minnesota and three weeks upcoming in Nevada beginning on July 7th. 

Totem poles are commonly seen in Victoria, such as this in Butchart Garden.

Tom visited son TJ’s home with Sarah and two grandsons, Jayden and Nik. They ate burgers and chicken, played some “hoops,” and yakked the night away. Tammy visited for some time, and they all had a great evening.

More tulips.

Greg picked me up at the hotel after Tom dropped me off after we’d spent the afternoon with Tammy and son Vincent at his fifth grade “fun day” at a local park. The weather was fantastic, windy, and sunny, perfect for the kid’s activities, including a lengthy “shower” from a fire truck while the kids got soaked while squealing with delight in a grassy field.

In the evening after the soccer games, we headed back to Greg’s home to plan for Tom to pick me up whenever he was done at TJ’s. I’d eaten a very late lunch, another Chipotle salad we picked up on the way back to the hotel, so dinner wasn’t necessary for me. For anyone to prepare a meal for me is often inconvenient and not worth the effort.

Garden keepers are preparing a pond for the upcoming celebration of Canada’s 150th year.

They all had dinner, after which we headed outdoors for a bonfire and idle chatter. The “Minnesota State Bird, the lowly mosquito made their usual appearance, and we swatted them of while huddling close to the fire and citronella candles.

Commemorating Canada’s 150-year celebration.

It was an enjoyable spending time with our respective families. Of course, in the future, we’ll enjoy plenty of activities with both Tom and me in attendance simultaneously.

I know I’d promised we wouldn’t spend a lot of time writing about family and friend activities. I apologize for not being able to resist sharing our daily events. Now that we’re here, I see how impossible it would have been to write about other topics when we’re so entrenched with the people we love and have missed for the past four years and seven months.

More plantings were commemorating Canada’s 150 years.

Many of you will skip over these posts, and we fully understand. Some of you will read them with the same interest you’ve expressed over reading about many of our less exciting and more mundane days and nights of this life we lead.

A few spring tulips remain in bloom in the late season at Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia.

But, the time will fly quickly for all of us, and in a mere 60 days, we’ll be on our way to Costa Rica, settling into the fabulous villa and beginning the search for those colorful frogs, birds, and other wildlife that populate that magical country. From there…it’s excitement all the way!

Carpe diem!

Photo from one year ago today, June 1, 2016:

An interesting-looking restaurant on the beach in Lovina, Bali, traveled to work on our visa extensions for Indonesia. For more details, please click here.

Day 5 Minnesota…It couldn’t be better…More photos from Butchart Gardens…Dinner with friends…

This was my favorite photo from Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia.

Please note: We’re finalizing the headcount for the “Meet & Greet” for our readers in Minneapolis on June 9th from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm at:
Grizzly’s Wood-Fired Grill
220 Carlson Parkway N, Plymouth, MN 555447

Please RSVP my by email if you plan to attend and haven’t already done so. Hope to see you then!

The well-arranged paths made it easy to see the entire facility in about two hours.
Seeing this garden reminded us of the rainy day we spent in Versailles in 2014. Click here for details of the most extraordinary gardens we’ve ever seen anywhere in the worldTodayay we’re continuing with more photos from the exquisite Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, to provide a break from our ramblings on family events.
A garden viewing house.

It was a day we’ll always remember which was cool and sunny, a perfect scenario for an afternoon in the world acclaimed gardens. Please see this list where Butchart Gardens is listed as one of the top 10 in the world.

Each unique garden was followed by another on the blissfully sunny day.

Another major garden we’re looking forward to seeing is located in Buenos Aires, Argentina where we’ll be staying for 30 days beginning on Tom’s 65th birthday, upcoming on December 23, 2017. For the link, please click here.

The crowds were huge but we tried taking photos without obstructions.

We still have many photos to share on Butchart Gardens and we’ll continue to do so when we take breaks from sharing family event details throughout our remaining 37 nights in Minnesota. Please bear with us as we attempt to “mix it up” a bit during this period of family visits.


Last night, we had our first dinner with friends Chere and husband Gary at their lovely home in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Chere and I met years ago in a work situation that caused us to immediately delve into a meaningful and lasting friendship. 

Colorful collection.

Now almost 20 years later and throughout mine and Tom’s years of travel, we have stayed in close touch never seeming to miss a beat in the events of our daily lives. 

Perhaps, the last of the spring tulips, these flowers were so dark they were almost black.

Chere is a successful well-known national speaker, registered dietician with contemporary views, motivator and lifestyle coach. Her upbeat attitude and enthusiasm for “living life to the fullest” is illustrated here in her comments on her website:

“I Make Positive Change Easy
I love the challenge of working with busy, successful people that are tired of living a ‘ho-hum” life, tired of feeling low on energy and having no time to do the things they truly want to. Sounds impossible for most, not for me.
I believe that knowing your purpose, energizes your life, which creates your happiness which you need in order to live healthily and then you can truly feel balanced and authentically love your life.”

Miniature garden in the carousel building.
Pretty merry-go-round at Butchart Gardens.

It’s not hard to see why Chere and I have easily connected with one another with our mutual “overly bubbly” attitudes about life. Last night, at dinner at their home, made to perfection for my way of eating, both Tom and Gary rolled their eyes a few times over Chere and my many likenesses and enthusiasm.

Hand painted horse in the merry-go-round.
Painted Panda on the carousel.

It was a delightful evening of engaging chatter while seated at their beautifully set dining room table. There’s nothing that can compare to the joy of lively conversation with like-minded friends with whom you share many interests.

A redwood tree.

Thanks to Chere and Gary for sharing their home and lives with us last night. Gary was off on a white water rafting trip leaving Chere and me more girl-time to spend over these coming weeks in between times with family and other friends. More on that later.

What a pretty display at Butchart Gardens.

Soon, we’re heading to grandson Vincent end-of-the-year school picnic at a local park and again we’re thrilled to have a sunny day in Minnesota, each of which is treasured by the locals after the long, cold winters.

See Chere’s overly bubbly smile, with husband Gary, as they prepare the table for dinner.

Later today, Tom will spend some quality time with son TJ and daughter Tammy. At this point, who knows what the evening holds???

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, May 31, 2016:

In Bali, the Buffaloes stayed relatively calm until it the race began. For more on Part2 buffalo races, please click here.