Travel desires and a Spanish class!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:   Very nice.  Sunny.  High 84

We ventured out today to do our Thanksgiving meal shopping.  It was remarkably calm.  We loaded up on turkey, cranberries, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and stuffing.  George will smoke the turkey….all day long on Thursday.

I further checked out the gift package that our daughter had sent me.  Included in the Rick Steves’ box of travel stuff, there was also a t-shirt, with his motto….”Keep on traveling!”  That certainly describes me, too!   We received an email today from a homeowner in northeastern Italy inquiring if we would like to return to housesit for their beautiful home and cutie-pie dog, but the dates don’t work….even if Europe does open for us in 2021.  It got me thinking again, and salivating, about European travel.  We will just wait and see.

Then, Spanish class!  I had put out the word that I would teach Spanish to a few people in Retama Village, our community.  At first, only one couple expressed interest, then people started to come out of the woodwork, and I ended up with 11 pupils plus George.  We had the class outdoors in order to social distance.  I am creating my own curriculum as there aren’t any textbooks that really meet the needs of these people.  It was fun.  We will start meeting twice a week.  I checked these books out from our local public library to help me get started….

DINNER:  I have lab work tomorrow, so I am fasting.  Darn!  I made George brisket tacos.  I have seen them on restaurant menus so I thought I would make some, using the leftover brisket George had smoked last week.  He said they were good!

BOOK:  “The Department of Sensitive Crimes” by Alexander McCall Smith.  He is the author of that African lady detective series and also books about life in Scotland, where he now lives.  He writes delightfully.  This is his latest book. 

The joys of camping……flat tire!

LOCATION:  Back in our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Cool AM, then warming to 84

I am downgrading the rating of the Bay View RV Park where we stayed in Rockport from 2 to 1.  (It started out as a 3.)  While we were there, we ran over something and punctured one of the Airstream’s tires a little.  We had to put some air in it  yesterday as there was a tiny leak.  Then, this morning, it was even flatter, so George had to remove it and replace it with the spare tire.  A big job!  Better to do it here at the Harvest Host winery, though, rather than out on a highway!

We had about a 5-hour drive back home.  Most of the drive was pretty bleak.  We had spotted a new  BBQ restaurant on the highway when we first left Mission, and were looking forward to  stopping there for lunch today.  Sadly, it is closed on Mondays.  We talked with the Filipino owner who was there smoking brisket for tomorrow.  We plan to stop there  some time on another trip.   

This is the route we took on our 5-day camping trip.  It was a nice get-away.

Our lovely daughter surprised us with a gift package that arrived at our door this afternoon….a DVD set of my “lover man #3” – Rick Steves.  I can’t wait to start watching the DVDs and reading the books….salivating over possible 2021 European travel. 

DINNER:  Since we didn’t get together with our friends Irene and Rob for the last night’s camping trip dinner, we went over to their house to eat it tonight.  Rob grilled some porkchops that he had marinated in harissa and garlic paste  – yum.  Irene made ratatouille and boiled potatoes.  Great dinner and a great way to wrap up our little holiday together.

Harvest Host #61!

LOCATION:  Port Lavaca, Texas – east central part of state near Gulf of Mexico
CAMPGROUND:  Our 61st Harvest Host site!  Rusty Hook Winery.  We are in a big field behind the winery, adjacent to farm land.  Fairly basic but nice and peaceful.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Mostly sunny and hot – 82.  A nice breeze in the evening.

We dithered around the RV park at Rockport, after our customary Sunday morning grits and eggs, accompanied by “CBS Sunday Morning”. 

I may downgrade my rating of the Rockport RV park from 2 to 1.  While we were there, part of the Airstream’s electricity would not work – the microwave, TV, and some outlets.  We assumed that some fuse had blown, but we couldn’t figure out the exact issue.  George experimented this morning by replacing the 50-amp electricity cord with the 30-amp cord, and voila’!   – things started working again.  The problem was not with Joy, our Airstream, but with the electricity hook-up.  (The power stand looked like it been backed into). 

We took off about noon as we only had a one-hour drive today, pretty much straight north.  We stopped at a roadside park for a picnic lunch.  We passed several car convoys, heading south ….several sets of a car pulling a beat-up car, pulling another beat-up car.  These cars are destined to have a second life in Mexico. 

Once we got set up in the winery, parking under the lone shade tree, we unhooked and went into the town of Port Lavaca to meet up with our friends Irene and Rob.  They are staying at a KOA north of the town as they are not Harvest Host members.  We said we would meet in the historic district, thinking it would be like cute Rockport with shops.  We were wrong.  There is nothing to the town.  All boarded up and sad.  We tried to find some coffee shop or wine bar along the seashore, but zip.  We got excited when we found a brewery with a waterfront view, but alas, it was closed on Sundays.  What?

George searched the internet looking for a restaurant/bar with a view and found nothing.  One bar got a 5-star rating.  He read the review:  “Great bar as the beer is cheap and they don’t have as many fights as the other bars in town”.   Wow!  What a glowing report!  As we drove around, we did see one bar that was doing a good business, so we thought we would check it out.  It was a typical Texas dive.  A big sign at the entrance warned about fighting – police would be called and the fighters would be banned permanently from the bar.  They are serious! 

With nothing else to do or see, we decided just to return to the winery.  Rob and Irene came with us and we did a tasting.  We sat out on the patio so that Trix could join us.  The wine was just so-so, but we supported the winery by buying some local salsa and bloody Mary mix from their gift shop.  We always buy something at a Harvest Host (free)  overnight stop. 

The winery closed at 6:00, so it became utterly peaceful.  We sat outside and enjoyed our own beer and wine.

DINNER:  I warmed up some of the beef brisket George had smoked a few weeks ago. I served it with Spanish rice and sauteed mixed vegetables.  This was the evening that our friends had planned to cook dinner, but since we are separated, we will postpone our get-together until tomorrow night when we are back in Retama Village.

An even bigger fish day!

LOCATION:  Rockport, Texas
CAMPGROUND:  2nd night at Bay View RV Resort
WEATHER:   A bit cloudy but nice.  High 80

George and our friend Rob got up at the crack of dawn to go out on a charter fishing boat for a half-day fishing trip.

While they were fishing, Rob’s wife Irene and I walked Trix their dog around the RV park.  The park has a lake where we spotted these beautiful flamingos. 

The boys returned at noon with a TON of fish!  Redfish, drum, sheepshead, and trout.  Wow!  We packaged everything up and froze most, saving redfish filets for tonight’s dinner.  Here are photos of their trip….

We drove in to the very cute town of Rockport.  We strolled around the historic district which has lots of shops selling beachwear, beach-style decor, and knick-knacks.  Trix was allowed in all the shops and was greatly admired.

Back at the park, I made us all margaritas which went down well.  The boys fired up their gas grills. 

DINNER:  Starter was the filets from the drum George caught yesterday at Lake Corpus Christi.  I sauted them in the iron skillet over the grill with butter and garlic.  For the main meal, each couple shared a redfish filet (quite large).  Irene made steamed broccoli, cauliflower and potatoes for us as sides.  We paired the meal with an Italian white wine.  All very very good!

A fishy sort of day

LOCATION:  Rockport, Texas  on the Texas Gulf Coast
CAMPGROUND:  Bay View RV Resort.  A huge RV park.  Strangely not paved, so very dusty.  About 80% of the RVs are seasonal/permanent so it is cluttered.  Full hook-ups.  2 swimming pools.  Bathroom is inside clubhouse.  Haven’t found a shower yet!  No picnic table or fire pit.  Cable TV, but no PBS.  Very poor wifi.  $45/night.  Sand spurs all over!  2 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Very nice.  High 80.  Cool evenings

George got up early to go fishing on Lake Corpus Christi, where we spent last night.  The fishing pier on the lake is quite nice.  He recruited our friend Rob to accompany him.

Rob’s wife Irene and I met up with them later at the pier.  On our way, we saw a bunch of deer.  Then, a turtle in the lake, followed by this heron and egret.  Lovely

Here are the fishermen….

Trix, their dog, was excited about the fishing, too.

Then….George caught one!  It is a drum.  He had not taken his bucket with him, as he didn’t think he would catch any fish, so I had to carry the fish back to our campsite (with my finger stuck in its gills) to place in a bucket of water.

We had only a 1-hour drive, straight east, to get to Rockport.  Our friends drive a motorhome and pull a jeep behind it.  They followed us.  Once we arrived at the park, they told us they watched another car almost rear-end us.  Guess who was driving?  This happened at the entrance of the RV park.  Apparently, a reckless driver who was in a hurry passed our friends on the right, then swerved back in the left lane, not realizing I was there and was getting ready to make a left lane into the park.  The guy had to slam on his brakes to avoid hitting us. 

We got settled in and took a walk around part of the RV park.  George and Rob spent some time on the internet researching possible guided fishing trips for tomorrow. 

Then, we all went to a great seafood restaurant.  They spread the (few) customers around inside, tent, and roof-top seating areas.  The evening was cool and pleasant so we sat on the roof-top. 

We started with oysters on the half shell.  I haven’t had these in a long time, and they were great.  They come right from the Gulf here.

We shared a blackened amber jack fish dinner.  It came with shrimp gumbo as a starter, rice, and steamed vegetables.  Excellent!

The dock was busy with commercial boats getting ready to go out early in the morning. 

Camping at the lake…

LOCATION:  Corpus Christi State Park, in east central Texas
CAMPGROUND:  2nd night at Corpus Christi State Park – Javalina Loop
WEATHER:  Grand!  Cool evenings and mornings; pleasant afternoon with high of 78

The night was deliciously cool, and we slept with all our windows open. It was nice and quiet, and the sky was full of stars. Lovely!

I took a solo morning walk around the Javalina Loop where we are camped.  The campground is about 1/2 full but it will fill up this weekend.  I spotted a bunny rabbit and several deer on my stroll.

Later in the morning we and our friends took a longer walk to give Trix, their dog, some exercise.  She loves fetching a ball in the lake.  The lake is quite large and not developed. 

George and I walked to a bait shop to buy bait and tackle, as he had forgotten his tackle box at home.  The shop was closed except for curbside service.  We followed the instructions, calling the owner from outside the shop.  George told her what he was looking for, and she came out with samples of things – like hooks, bobbers, etc.  She was VERY helpful.  After he made his selections,  she thanked and thanked us for stopping at her shop.  On our way back, the mailman stopped near us while delivering the mail in his car.  He wanted to chat, too.  I think these people around here are starved for conversation! 

Back at the campsite, I worked on my Spanish lessons and used our friends and George as guinea pigs.  I think my lesson plans have been way too ambitious.  I need to modify them to be short and sweet. 

While I was slaving away on the computer, George took a nap.  This is the life!

DINNER:  Our friends and we are taking turns cooking.  Tonight was my night.  We started with some hummus I had made and crackers   (and wine).   We sat out at the picnic table and enjoyed the evening.

It soon got dark and a bit chilly.  We changed to long pants and jackets, and George built a fire.  We grilled chicken on the fire.  I put part of the chicken directly on the fire – just with a salt and pepper rub.  The other part of the chicken was placed in our iron skillet with some BBQ sauce, butter, and worcestershire sauce.  When I served it, I gave each person some of each kind of chicken.  That turned out well – so not too much BBQ.  Sides were potato salad I had made back at the house, and a lettuce and tomato salad.  All good.  I opened one of our wines from our wine club. This was a Sonoma County red blend.  We are rating all of them.  We gave this a 4 out of 5.

Road trip!

LOCATION:  Near Corpus Christi in east central Texas
CAMPGROUND:  Corpus Christi State Park.  Full hook-ups.  Nice spacious pull-through, paved sights.  Picnic tables (some with shelters)  and firepits.  $25/night.  With Texas State Park pass, second night is half off.  4 stars out of 5. 
WEATHER:  Beautiful.  Sunny.  High 80

We spent the morning hurriedly packing up Joy, our Airstream.  We don’t have duplicate sets of everything, so had to move a lot of dishes, food, clothes, and kitchen gadgets from the house to the Airstream.  We finished up about 11:00 and hit the road.

The state park is not too far from Mission – 135 miles.  The last few miles were in Texas ranch country.  These ranches have not received the memo…..all had Trump signs and flags waving in their yards. 

We are on a 4-night camping trip with friends from our community, Retama Village.  We really enjoy being with them.  He is British; she is German.  They will return after 4 nights, and we will continue camping for 1 or  2 more nights – one in a Harvest Host winery and one night possibly in Padre Island National Park.  We are here in this park for 2 nights.

After we got set up, we all took a walk with our friends’ big schnauzer.  She really likes the lake!

Next to us at the park are 2 other Airstreams.  They are two couples full-timing together.  It is a small world…..  One couple is from Iowa, from a town not far from where I grew up.  They are on their way to Mission and will winter in the RV park that is the “sister” of Retama Village, and right next door.  We are going to get together when they arrive there next week.

DINNER:  We went in to the small town near the state park to a Czech diner to pick up dinner.  Our friends have been here before and were looking forward to their food.  It is interesting to visit small towns around Texas that have ethnic roots – there are several German, Polish, Slavic, and Czech communities sprinkled around the state. We picked up fried local catfish, shrimp, and Polish sausage.  Sides were cole slaw, fries, rolls, and sauted cabbage.  All very tasty.

The Big Reveal!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Very nice.  High 80

STEPS:  11,653
CLASSES: Chair yoga, 2 water aerobics

Today’s walk was in the state park next to us.  It was much nicer today than before, as there were no mosquitos.

We saw these chachalacas chasing the beautiful blue jays.

We walked to the “resaca” – an elbow of the Rio Grande River which is now cut off from the main river.   It is a popular fishing place

We rushed back to be home to greet the Mexican workers here to wash and wax Joy.  It was fun to joke around with them in Spanish.

Drum roll here…..The great reveal.  Previously, I told you that there are 4 men that I adore:

1)  My dear husband George
2) Jacques Pepin, chef and TV food star.  I am making all his recipes from his book “Fast Food My Way” and am posting them on this blog.
3) Rick Steves, travel writer and TV travel show host.  We share a love for European travel.

And #4 is Bill Bryson…..

I feel that I have a lot in common with Bill Bryson.  Our birthdays are just months apart.  He grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, about 30 miles where I grew up.  When he was in college, he went to England.  When I was in college, I went to Spain.  He ended up marrying a British woman and has lived in both the USA and England since then.  He now lives near Southampton, where we were last year. 

He writes delightful travel books.  Some of his first ones were tales of his adventures during his first year in England.  Then, after living in Europe for several years, he returned to the US to travel and to write about his strange/hilarious new reactions to the USA and our ways.   His stories are the kind that make you snort and laugh out loud (kind of embarassing when reading among strangers).   He has also written about Australia and his experiences in hiking the Apalachian Trail (later turned into a movie).  These are some of his books:

* Neither Here Nor There – Travels in Europe

* Notes from a Small Island

* The Lost Continent – Travels in Small-Town America

Most recently, he wrote a book called “The Body”.  It is full of fascinating facts and trivia,  and written in a very light-hearted way.  I highly recommend, especially in this era of Covid-19.

Alas, I just read that he has retired so probably won’t be writing any more books.  He has become quite famous in England. 

Speaking of books, I finished another one today….

BOOK:  The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristen Harmel.  Historial fiction about life during WWII – a love story written about various people whose lives interconnect at an apartment on Rue Amelie.  5 stars out of 5.

DINNER:  Another night with Jacques……..

CHICKEN BREASTS WITH GARLIC AND PARSLEY

He writes that his mother made this recipe, but with frog legs.  I also did a substitution – I used chicken thighs instead of breasts.

3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 T Wondra flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 T good olive oil
1 T chopped garlic
5 T chopped fresh parsley
2 T unsalted butter
1 lemon, quartered

Dry the chicken cubes with paper towels and toss them with the flour, salt, and pepper in a bowl.  Heat the oil over high heat until very hot but not smoking.  Add the chicken cubes and cook in one layer, turning occasionally, for about 4 minutes. 

Meanwhile, combine the garlic and parsley in a small bowl.  Add the butter/parsley mixture to the skillet and saute for 1 minute, shaking the skillet occasionally.

To serve, divide among 4 plates and add a wedge of lemon to each plate.

I served a large lettuce and tomato salad with the meal.

The chicken was quite good, but the recipe was not up to the normal “wow” factor of his recipes. 

Sushi time!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  A bit cooler.  High 85

STEPS:  11,458
CLASSES:  1 chair yoga, 2 water aerobics

It was nice and cool when I walked this morning.  It was a bit foggy again.  Foggy weather must translate to good conditions for crossing the border.  As I was walking on the highway around the hayfields, I listened to a Border Patrol helicopter hover right above me.  On the ground were about 20 Border Patrol trucks and cars.  I think they spot the undocumented people from the helicopter, then radio down to the agents on the ground, who then go search for them….by truck, bicycle, horse, or by foot in the bushes.  There were about 20 BP vehicles on the road I was walking on.  I saw 5 agents surrounding an undocumented person.  There must have been more in the bushes that they were searching for. 

Here are some more photos of the curio shop where we went on Sunday in search of Mexican glassware.  We were tempted to buy the flamingo as flamingos are the emblem of Airstreamers.  But…..we let the temptation pass…..

I spent the afternoon busily making lesson plans for my upcoming Spanish classes.  I now have 4 couples plus George who will be my pupils!

George cleaned the truck and prepped the Airstream for its washing tomorrow. 

The highlight of the day was an outing to a Japanese restaurant that has been highly rated.  We haven’t had sushi in about a year, this was a real treat.  We went with another couple from our village.  The woman had this sushi platter…

George and I shared a grilled octopus for an appetizer…

Then, we shared a sushi/sashimi platter as our entree. 

Oishikata!  …as they say in Japanese.  It was almost authentic, even though all the waiters and sushi chefs were Latinos. 

BTW – You will have to wait until tomorrow for the big reveal….of the identity of the #4 man in my love life! 

A trip to Mexico….well, almost

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Cloudy and a bit cooler.  High 83

STEPS:  10,733
CLASSES – 0.  No classes are offered on Sundays, and I wimped out on doing any “extra credit”

We had a fun outing today.  Our main goal was to buy some Mexican martini glassses.  We live right across the border from Progreso, Mexico, but with Covid, we are not allowed to cross over, unless we are going to a doctor/dentist or to buy medications.  Before Covid, we gringos would go over there for lunch, a margarita, to shop, and perhaps pick up some cheap (legal) drugs.  They have shops with lovely Mexican ceramics and glassware.  Fortunately, one of the shops has a sister shop with most of the same merchandise, but on this side of the border.  We headed there and bought the glasses.

Then, we checked out a nearby restaurant that looked quite nice.  We sat on the patio and enjoyed all the beautiful colors and flowers.

Of course, there was the obligatory Frida Kahlo photo and artwork. 

George befriended these gals….

We shared an appetizer, which was plenty for lunch – a chalupa, two tacos and one lonche.  Lonche is a Spanglish word for lunch.  It has now morphed to mean a sandwich made with a hard roll filled with ingredients you would find in a taco – beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, avocado. 

Back home, George happily watched the Masters’ Golf Tournament.  We lived in Augusta a long time ago, and enjoy seeing the beauty of the course.

You will have to wait a few days until I announce on the blog who Lover #4 is.  Meanwhile, I made another Jacques Pepin (lover #2) recipe for dinner. 

First course was a steamed, whole artichoke with a lemony mayo dip. 
Second course was a big spinach/arugula salad with ripe tomatoes.
Main course was:

CRAB CAKES IN RED SAUCE

1 8-oz package fresh crabmeat
1.25 cup bread crumbs
2 T minced scallions
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 T mayonnaise
1/2 tsp Tabasco
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup sliced almonds
2 T peanut or canola oil

Put the crabmeat in a bowl and add 2/3 cup of the bread crubs, scallion, cilantro, garlic, mayonnaise, Tabasco, and salt.  Mix lightly just until ingredients are well combined.

Put the remaining bread crumbs in a food processor with the almonds and process until the nuts are well chopped and combined with the bread crumbs.  (Note, I crushed the almonds by hand as I don’t normally carry the food processor with us when we travel in our trailer). 

Heat oven to 180 degrees.  Form the crab mixture into 4 patties, then dip each patty into the crumb mixture until each is coated on all sides.

Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat and arrange the patties next to each other.  Cook for about 3 minutes on each side.  Keep warm in the oven.

RED SAUCE

1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 T ketchup
1 tsp wasabi paste
2 tsp fresh lime juice
1 T water
2 tsp chopped chives

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.

To serve, divide the sauce among 4 plates.  Place a patty in the center of the sauce on each plate, and sprinkle on some chives.  Serve immediately.  Serves 4.  Elegant, but easy