Is it margarita time yet?

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Windy but nice – 70ish

Since we are so close to the Mexican border (less than 1 mile), there is a huge Mexican influence here. Tons of Mexican restaurants, some touristy, and some really authentic ones where everyone only speaks Spanish. Needless to say, a lot of margaritas are served.

The last time we were in Mexico (at a border town), our friends Tony and Jenny bought us some really nice glasses for margaritas. The color choices are endless….

I previously was not a big fan of margaritas. The ones in bars are generally made with a mix that I find artificially sweet. However, I’ve found a recipe and make them from scratch and now really like them – could be dangerous! The recipe is so easy….

1 jigger of tequila. Best with a medium-priced tequila. Avoid the cheapest ones.

1 jigger of triple sec

1 jigger of lime juice

1 jigger of lemon juice

Salt the rims (optional), add all these jiggers, then plenty of ice. Serve with slices of lime. Some people add a pinch of sugar, but I prefer the sour taste. I’ve also heard that you can substitute orange juice for lemon juice for a taste twist.

Salud! For cold-weather readers…..save this for a nice hot summer day!

Fun Saturday in Retama Village

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Very nice. High about 70. Sunny

Living here in Retama Village is a “sweet spot”. The people are all very friendly. You can do as much or as little as you would like. I started out today with 2 classes of line dancing. I am at the bottom two levels of beginners! It is a fun workout, though.

Then, I joined the photography club’s meeting to look at one resident’s photos of the North Shore (Minnesota). My ipad photos cannot compare with the quality of some of these guys’ photos.

After lunch, I attended a meeting of “Instant Pot” owners. This is the newest kitchen appliance craze. It is a combo of pressure cooker, crockpot, rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, sauté pan, and MORE! I’m trying to decide whether to buy one or not. With such limited space in both the house an the Airstream, I have to consider it thoughtfully.

In addition to owning our tiny house, we own the land it is on (which is different from many RV communities). It came landscaped with butterfly-friendly shrubs. I had noticed some caterpillars munching happily away on one of the plants. Not wanting to be branded a butterfly-murderer in this butterfly-friendly community, I posted my question on our community facebook page about what to do with them. Shortly after the post, one of the gardening/butterfly “pros” stopped by to check out our situation. In a nutshell…..we will let the caterpillars continue their feast and the bush will come back unharmed.

After doing a little yard work, we relaxed with a homemade margarita on the driveway. I’ve found my own recipe and it is so much better than the commercial mix.

In the evening, we went to another RV community where they have a big hall with weekly dances. What a hoot! The band is called “Rewind” and they played all oldies classics. What fun it was to dance the night away.

Relaxing in Retama

LOCATION: Retama Village in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Windy. Highs in 70s

We are settling back into our “tiny house”. Retama Village is a community primarily for RVers. There are some non-RV sites, but several of the lots have small houses or carriages with driveways for the residents’ RVs. This is our Airstream next to the house.

Our house is 12 X 40, which is really more house than we need. Small kitchen/dining/living area plus bathroom with a walk-in shower, and bedroom. What more could one want?

Almost all the “winter Texans” are here now, and almost every lot seems to be occupied. There are some big rigs.

We have some new neighbors with a retro motor home.

In the afternoon I did my daily water aerobics class, which I really like.

We are making friends and are joining a few groups.

Flying back “home”

LOCATION: Panama to. Mission, Texas

WEATHER (in Mission): Nice – 70s

We missed talking with our homeowner. He was scheduled to return at 7:30 PM last night, but his flight was delayed 4 hours. So, he arrived in the wee hours, when we were sleeping. Mac continued to sleep in our room, which gave us a good feeling.

We had to get up at 4:00 AM in order to catch an early morning flight. The airport was a zoo. As with most flights, there were good and bad things…

Good – United “upgraded” us to exit row seats on the flight to Houston. The little bit of extra leg room was nice, but certainly not worth paying for. International flights to Central America no longer provide meals, so we luckily had brought tuna sandwiches for the 4-hour trip. Also good….we were scheduled to have a 6-hour layover in Houston. We stopped by the United desk in Houston and they were able to get us on an early PM flight. It was nice to get home early.

Bad — TSA. On one of the THREE security checks, they confiscated my tweezers and non-pointy finger nail file, both of which have gone through numerous TSA checks in the past few years all of the world. Even more maddening is that they took our only souvenir from Panama, a (less than 3-oz) bottle of tasty hot sauce.

I guess if we were terrorists, we could have thrown it in the pilot’s eyes or something.

After a lunch layover in Houston, we arrived in Mission where a kind Retama Village neighbor picked us up. All good back in the house and Airstream.

Room with a View..

LOCATION: Panama City, Panama

WEATHER: Need I repeat? Hot and humid

Today is our last full day here. We did a Skype interview with an Irish couple living in Geneva and they selected us for a housesit there this spring. Yay!

We will miss this lovely view of the Pacific from our living room’s deck..

Out there in the bay are lots of ships waiting to go through the Canal. We learned that they are not waiting their turn. Rather, they are waiting for their “time”. Each ship reserves a time slot, months in advance. They have to arrive at least 24 hours before their appointment. They have to prepay….in cash!

We realized that today is a holiday, Martyrs’ Day. It is the day Panama remembers the Panamanian students who were killed when they tried to put up the Panama flag in schools in the US-controlled Canal Zone. We watched parades go by chanting and singing. It was a bit of a mob scene. Sort of scary. Not sure if it still anti-American.

The crowd rallied near our place, in front of the President’s condo, with lots of shouting.

Then, we love sitting on the deck for AM coffee and PM drinks, when the temperature is pleasant. Mac likes it, too!

A final goodbye to Panama with a lovely sunset..

Eco Trip to Rain Forest Jungle

LOCATION: Housesitting in Panama City, Panama

WEATHER: Same – hot and humid. Showers in AM

Today’s excursion was a trip to see jungle animals. We got up early and met the tour guide at 7:00 AM. Supposedly, the tours that start earlier in the day get to see more animals. The tour was nice and small again, with a Canadian and a couple from Guatemala as our tour mates.

We drove about 30 minutes from the city. I sense a little rivalry between Panama and Costa Rica, for eco-tourists. Our guide today pointed out that unlike San Jose, Costa Rica, where the rain forest is several hours away, the capital city here in Panama is right on the edge of the rain forest. It is everywhere here!

We drove along the road where there have been more bird species found than anywhere else in the world.

Then, we got on our little boat and sped away across Gatun Lake, which is part of the Panama Canal. The river feeding into the lake used to be called Crocodile River. We donned life jackets, but the guide pointed out that if we sink, we would be gobbled up by a crocodile before the life jacket ever helped us!

We dodged big ships going through the Canal, like this oil tanker being guided by a pilot boat.

Before the Hoover Dam was built, Gatun Lake was the largest man-made lake in the world. They essentially flooded part of the rain forest. Now, the tops of some of the former mountains are small islands that dot the lake. The wildlife on these islands have been partially relocated, and some still live on the islands. So, off we went to see what wildlife we could see on some of the islands.

At our first stop, several white-faced Capuchin monkeys heard the boat coming and jumped through the tree branches to greet us. Our guide pointed out that generally a firm rule in eco tours is to NOT feed wild animals. Here, though, the animals depend on this food, as there is not enough food on these islands to sustain them. So, the monkeys know that food is coming when they hear the boats.

This guy jumped right into our boat to welcome us.

They are very bold. We each had grapes to feed them.

We went to another island where another species of monkeys, the smallest in the world, live. They are shyer, as the bigger monkeys are their predators. Here we fed them some bananas, and even got to see one mother with 2 babies latched on to her.

We saw huge iguanas hanging in trees and many kinds of birds, including the beautiful toucan.

Then, back across the lake. We passed this huge container ship. It has more than 10,000 containers. It costs this size of ship about $1 million to go through the canal, but the ship companies see this as a bargain as it takes about 10 hours to go through the canal, versus 20 days going around South America.

On our way back home, we stopped to look at this sloth. Hurry, before it moves! 🙂

We took a short hike through the jungle canopy, stopping at a waterfalls. We saw some coati in the bushes, and several beautiful birds.

Eating our way around Panama

LOCATION: Housesitting in Panama City, Panama

WEATHER: Same – hot and humid

We love the Panamanian food. It has influences from the Caribbean and Latin America. We started the morning with a sandwich that is like a Cuban sandwich from this food truck…

We splurged for lunch, at a really nice European restaurant. I had “seafood nested in a hammock”. It was grilled seafood served on a little bed of fried plantain….

George had the sea bass (a specialty here) in a garlic sauce. Yum!

The atmosphere was vaguely Cuban 1940s era style. There were lots of waiters waiting around to wait on us!

Speaking of food, we came home to our little dog Mac, begging for his dinner….