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 head count for the "Meet & Greet" for our readers in Minneapolis on June 9th from 5 pm to 8 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 world.
To provide a break from our ramblings on family events, today we're continuing with more photos from the exquisite Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
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.

It's a whirlwind...Living in a hotel for six weeks...What's that like?...Shopping photos...

Our two new pieces of luggage in easy-to-spot colors.  Tom chose the purple while I chose this peachy color.  Each bag is expandable and lightweight with four double wheel rollers.
This is the longest period, we'll have spent in a hotel since the onset of our travels beginning on October 31, 2012.  Many have asked why we chose a hotel over staying in a vacation/holiday home while in Minnesota for six weeks.  Wouldn't that be more cost effective and convenient?

Not necessarily.  There are several reasons we chose to stay in a hotel during this extended period from May 26, 2017 to July 7, 2017, a total of 42 nights.  One consideration was cost.  It's expensive to rent a house in Minnesota, but that definitely wasn't the single most important reason.

Now, that we're here, we're realizing what a good decision it was to be free of planning meals, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning and doing dishes.  Without the responsibility of these daily tasks, we're free to spend time with family and friends at our leisure.  We love the freedom.

With a $30 a day budget for dining out so far we're totally on track, even slightly under at $81.62 for the three nights we've dined in restaurants; Grizzly's, Champs and Chipotle. 

By not consuming cocktails, other beverages, appetizers and desserts we save considerably on restaurant tabs.  Tom says he's had enough alcohol over these past two 33-night cruises (plus an additional two nights spent in Vancouver) that he's on a break from drinking anything at all with a possible few exceptions for special functions.

Since I'm only drinking water right now with an occasional cup of herbal tea and trying not to drink anything while eating to improve digestion, it's easy for me to avoid ordering beverages.  Neither of us orders any sodas or sweetened drinks.
Tom's two new pairs of shoes; one pair Nike tennis shoes and a pair of Nike slides ideal for casual living in upcoming vacation homes.
Thus, it's easy to dine out for our preferred budgetary expenditure without giving it a second thought, especially when neither of us has a desire to dine in expensive restaurants. 

Much to my delight, I've had no problem ordering meals befitting my way of eating.  Last night's Chipotle salad bowl was indeed a rare treat.  I haven't had Chipotle since we left Minnesota four years and seven months ago. 

By ordering only the beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, sour cream and guacamole I was able to stay close to the limited number of carbs that I can consume daily.  I practically moaned over the delicious concoction.  Tom, on the other hand didn't care for his beef burrito, claiming it had too much rice and not enough beef.

The day was great.  Greg, Camille and three grandchildren came for breakfast at our hotel at 9:00 am, after which the kids swam in one of the hotel's two swimming pools.  It was fun to see them frolic and laugh, swimming and splashing in the pool, something we've missed for so long with all six of our grandchildren.

After they left, we visited Tom's nephew Tim and Tom's sister Margie happened to be visiting Tim as well.   What a pleasant surpise!  We have many more visits planned with Tom's family members over the remaining days in Minnesota.

Afterward, we headed to TJ Maxx to see if we could find two new pieces of luggage.  Our two large bags were literally falling apart.  A short time later, we exited the store wheeling two colorful 30" lightweight suitcases to the SUV for under $175. 

The regular retail prices for the two bags was four times the prices we actually paid.  The odd colors resulted in several price reductions.  We love odd colors on luggage.  Its make them easier to spot when coming down the baggage carousel at airports and cruise terminals and also, less likely to be stolen.  Most thieves prefer to swipe less noticeable black bags.

While at the mall without many expectations, we wandered into a Famous Footwear store.  We both desperately needed new shoes, when a few of our individual five pairs were falling apart. 
Yesterday, daughter-in-law Camille let me try on her similarly styled shoes and I was thrilled to find an equally comfortable style at Famous Footwear.
A short time later we were back on the road, each with two new pairs of shoes. Tom purchased a pair of black Nike tennis shoes and black Nike slides while I purchased black Clark sandals (my favorite brand) and a pair of casual waterproof shoes as shown in the photo.

Our total bill for the four pairs was $219.36!  What a deal!  Nike tennis shoes were over $200 in Australia.  Now, Tom can toss the $13 Adidas knockoffs he purchased in Hanoi last summer.  Surprisingly, they've served him well.

We'll each toss two pairs of worn out shoes which we'll continue wearing until we fly to Nevada on July 7th, squeaking out every last drop of use.  In doing so, we'll each maintain a total of five pairs of shoes, exactly what fits into our bags.

Later in the day, Tammy and Vincent stopped at our hotel, dropping off two TV trays (there's no dining table in our hotel room) and a cooler (we have a small refrigerator but this works for picnics, etc.).  It was delightful chatting with them and, we look forward to many more such occasions with all of our children and grandchildren.

Today, we're staying put until we head to Eden Prairie, arriving at 4:00 pm for dinner at friends Chere and Gary's home.  Chere and I have stayed in very close touch all these years, occasionally through Skype and often daily via email.  How fun it will be to begin seeing our many friends as well as our family members.

That's it for today, friends.  We'll be back each day with more...
Photo from one year ago today, May 30, 2016:
It was the look on the mouth of the buffalo on the right that inspired me to get a close up of this buffalo's teeth when we attended a buffalo race in Bali.  For more details, please click here.

Memorial Day...Love and respect for those who gave their lives for our freedom...More family visits...

Nothing signifies Minnesota more than the commonly found Canadian Goose.
We extend our hearts and prayers to those who lost loved ones to war and strife throughout the world.  Many celebrate with prayer and reverence as a special part of today's observations.  May this day and others bring peace and healing for those who remember lost loved ones.

Yesterday, Sunday of this Memorial Day weekend, we drove to Sandstone, Minnesota to see daughter Tammy and family at their campground in Askov, aka Asking.
They're pretty to look at but poop two pounds per day in the grass, a real nuisance for homeowners, particularly those living on a lake, as we did in our old lives.
The drive in the new Ford Explorer was pleasant while I worked on the settings on our phones for which we'd purchased SIM cards at a local T. Mobile store.  It was pricey for the two months of unlimited calls, text and 4 gigs of data at $180 for both phones, more than we've paid in any country.

We knew we couldn't spend the nine weeks in the US without phones, especially with one car and the need to pick one another up during planned activities that may include only one of us.

This sky view took our breath away.
During the long drive, we sent our numbers by text to family members and now we're easily able to stay in touch for planning and confirming our get-togethers over the remaining 39 days until we leave for Nevada for part two of the family visits.

What a pretty sky.  Rainstorms like this are typical for Minnesota and the Midwest.

Tammy, Tracy and our grandson Vincent have an RV parked in a permanent spot in a lovely fully equipped campground near Hinckley, Minnesota, home of several casinos and popular vacation spots.  Many locals travel from all over the state to gamble and enjoy the countryside.

A deep bank of clouds and rain greeted us on the return drive before dark.
Warmly welcomed by the family and their two huge Newfoundland dogs, we settled in for an enjoyable day of lively chatter and catching up.  Unfortunately, it was a rainy and cool day and we spent most of the day inside the camper. 

It was raining in mysterious sheets during the drive back to our hotel around 8:00 pm.
Later in the day, when the sun peeked out we gathered around a roaring campfire for more conversation and laughter.  It was an easy day spent sharing a piece of their lives as they too, like all of our children and grandchildren, have found a "happy place" where they unwind and relax while still working and raising their families.

At certain points, there was a massive downpour.
We're deeply touched by the love and emotions shared by our family and look forward to every single moment we can spend together.  Once again, we're humbled and in awe of the world around us, cherishing every interaction, each beautiful scene and the prospect of what is yet to come.

May your day be memorable in many ways...

Photo from one year ago today, May 29, 2016:

This cat, who didn't seem to mind, was getting a lot of personalized attention from these three monkeys at the Monkey Temple in Bali, if you see what I mean.  For more photos, please click here.

Fabulous first day in Minnesota...More continues today in the country...Photos of Victoria, British Columbia...

Historical government building in Victoria.
Today's photos are some of the many remaining photos we'd yet to share from the exceptional day we spent in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada on May 25th. 

With time constraints today as we head out to drive to the town of Asking, Minnesota, to see Tom's daughter Tammy and family who are camping for the holiday weekend, we'll have to breeze through a quick post today.
Market Square, a shopper's haven.

Many of our days and nights are planned for the six weeks we'll be in Minnesota, with several events planned for mornings when we usually prepare and upload the day's posts.
On those days we'll quickly post photos and at times a shorter story so we can get on our way as opposed to posting later in the day or in the evening.  We apologize for any missed typos and errors during this period of time. 
New buildings have sprouted up throughout the city.
We use a comprehensive spell checker but as texting enthusiasts are aware, errors can easily be missed or turned into other words that represent other types of errors. 
The old and the new mingle well in Victoria.
Even with both Tom and I proofreading for errors, it's still easy to misspell a few words or bypass grammar corrections we may have noted in a less hurried state.
Entrance to Chinatown.
We'd purchased and had shipped SIM cards to which we could add data, text and phone features.  Unfortunately, the cards didn't work on our phones after many attempts.  Once we're done here, we'll be heading to nearby Ridgedale Mall where we'll purchase SIM cards for both of our phones. 
Chinatown is a popular tourist attraction in Victoria.
The SIM cards were only $1 each, a top popular brand with many positive reviews on Amazon to which users adds money for data and phone.  Once activated, we could have added a monthly pay plan for each phone, requiring no contract.  Alas, they didn't work and we just don't have time or interest in messing with them further.
Cafe/restaurant in a historical building in Victoria.
As a result, this morning we're off to the Best Buy phone store in nearby Ridgedale Mall where hopefully, they'll get service working for both of our cell phones.  Once this task is accomplished, we'll be on our way to family in Asking, a two-hour drive from our location. 
The five star Empress Hotel where high tea is served at 3:00 pm at $75 per person.
We won't be staying overnight.  Instead, we'll be heading back at dark, after the day spent with family.  It should be another great family day as was yesterday which we spent with my son Greg and three grandchildren, Maisie, Miles and Madighan at their home in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.

Also, yesterday, we visited Tom's sister Patty who's currently in a nursing home after recent major surgery; Tom's brother Jerry, an avid reader of our site and Tom's son TJ and grandson Nik at their home, ending the day with my son Greg and family.
Restaurant in Victoria.
The hotel is working out well for us.  It has everything we need including laundry facilities where we completed two loads of wash this morning.  The Wi-Fi is excellent, the breakfast food is fine and the staff is friendly.  The location is proving to be ideal for our purposes.
Hotel in Victoria.
There's no doubt, this six-week period will fly by in a flash and before we know it, we'll be off to Nevada on July 7th.  We'll cherish every moment we spend with family and friends, taking photos while continuing to write to each of YOU  each and every day.

Be well and be safe!

Photo from one year today, May 28, 2016:
A mom and adorable baby at the Monkey Temple in Singaraja, Bali.  For more photos, please click here.

We're in Minnesota after a 12-hour travel day! ... All is good!... Our hotel and rental car...

As a former owner of this model, Tom is thrilled with this new Ford Explorer.  We couldn't believe all the technology in this rental car, more than any we've seen throughout the world. As it turned out we rented this car for the full six weeks for only $50 more than a tiny economy car from this site:
It was 8:30 pm by the time we checked into the hotel.  The fact that we were renting the SUV for an extended period required two separate contracts; one for one month and another for the additional two weeks.  Of course, this took twice as long as usual.
The lounge area in the entry to the hotel.
Between the airport in Seattle and again in Minneapolis, my FitBit easily hit 10,000 steps from all the walking through the lengthy terminals.  The easy three-hour flight landed by 6:30 pm. 

Another lounge area in the hotel.
It took awhile to make our way to the rental car area at the Minneapolis airport.  Everything had changed since the last time we were there five years ago.  It had changed so much, we hardly recognized any area. 

There's a small shop in the hotel where guests can purchase beverages and snacks.
Once we arrived at the Country Inn & Suites hotel, we were pleasantly surprised.  Our discounted corporate rate at $107 a night was a far cry from the average rates of over $200 a night for most hotels. 

TV and fake fireplace in the lounge where most days I'll prepare the daily post.
With breakfast, Wi-Fi and taxes included, it was the best possible price we could expect for a six-week stay.  The convenient location was also a factor in choosing this facility.

Complimentary breakfast is available from 7:00 am to 10:00 am daily.  This morning we had eggs and sausage.
By the time we brought in our bags, it was fast approaching 9:00 pm and we decided to walk next door to Grizzly's Wood Fired Grill for dinner.  With the two- hour time difference we weren't as hungry as we could have been. 

We continue to avoid the fruit, bread and baked goods.
Also, Grizzly's is the location for the upcoming Meet & Greet on June 9th for our Minnesota readers, for which we still continue to receive RSVP's (please send us a message if you'd like to attend) and we wanted to check it out firsthand.  After a good dinner and service, we were content with the decision to have our event at that location.
There are two workstations in the business center.
At the moment, we visiting Tom's sister Patty at a local nursing home where she's recuperating from recent surgery.  Soon, we'll leave and head to Tom's brother Jerome's home in Coon Rapids. 

Jerome is Tom's older brother with whom we've stayed in close touch over these past years.  He's blind with a talking computer and has enjoyed "listening" to our posts over these past years.  Each day, Tom removes all the photos from the day's post and sends it to Jerry by email.  We're so looking forward to seeing him as well.

Prices for hotels in Minneapolis are very high, comparable to many other larger US cities.  We opted for a corporate rate on this fairly modest hotel which is conveniently located for visiting family and friends.  Its clean, friendly and fulfills our needs during the six weeks in Minnesota.
Today at 5:00 pm, we're heading to dinner at my son Greg's home (wife Camille) where we'll see three of our darling grandchildren.  The excitement of seeing those we love with more yet to see is indescribable. 

Over these next weeks, we'll spend most of our free time with family and friends filling our hearts with love and more wonderful memories.  As we mentioned in an earlier post, we won't turn each day's post into a family album.  We'll continue to seek lovely scenery, wildlife and many of the highlights in the Minneapolis area.

Complimentary coffee and tea is available throughout the day and night.
Tomorrow, we'll return with more photos from the Butchart Garden in Victoria. Have a safe and meaningful Memorial Day weekend.

Photo  from one year ago today, May 27, 2016:
Here we were wearing saris standing at the foot of the steps at the Pulaki Temple in Singaraja in Bali.  For more photos, please click here.