Cozy in Weaverville

LOCATION: Housesitting outside of Weaverville, North Carolina, near Asheville

WEATHER: Sunny. High almost 60

We went in to nearby Weaverville to explore. It is a really cute town. If it had a bus to Asheville (which is in the works, I think), it would be the perfect town in which to live. It has everything – cute shops, grocery stores, restaurants, brewpubs, and more. We stopped at a coffee shop where a guitarist was singing and playing.

We did computer and phone work while sipping free coffee – free, as our homeowner had given us some gift cards to use. We diddled around so long there, that we realized it was about 1:00, and we were hungry. So, we went next door to a cute pub and had Taco Tuesdays. We sampled a few of their many taps.

On our way home, we shopped at a nice Goodwill, then on home.

Abby is one of our charges. She is a mix, but seems to have quite a bit of terrier in her.

She likes to cuddle on the couch…

Kevin, the Maine coon cat, is camera shy. I’ll try to get a photo later.

DINNER: Cajun beans and rice with some Italian salami and leftover rotisserie chicken bits.

We are thrilled that we have several PBS channels. Tonight we watched my favorite travel shows – with my honey Rick Steves and Rudy Maxa. Rudy highlighted Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, some of our favorite places. Makes us want to go back soon!

Christmas splendor at the Biltmore Estate

LOCATION: Housesitting outside of Weaverville, North Carolina, near Asheville

WEATHER: Sunny and warmer. High mid-50s

Our daughter that lives here in Asheville works at a hotel across from the Biltmore Estate. She was able to get us complementary tickets to visit the Biltmore Estate (normally $85 each!)

So, George stayed home to mind the housesit and pets while she and I did the tour.

The Vanderbilts built this mansion in 1895. It is always beautiful to visit, but especially now decorated for Christmas. Each of the 250 rooms had its own tree and decor….

There were lots of tourists viewing the house. (George would not have liked the crowds.) We saw lots of ballrooms, banquet rooms, dining rooms, living halls, bedrooms, and atriums. It was also interesting to see the downstairs floors – swimming pool and bowling center. We read that this was before automated bowling pin set-ups, so servants had to reset the bowling pins after each throw. Then,, in the the sub-basement we got interesting glimpses of the servants’ quarters, kitchens, and laundry.

After the house tour, we walked around the gardens, mostly barren this time of year, and then to the arborteum. It was glorious, especially with the Christmas additions of poinsettias.

From there, we visited another part of the Biltmore Estate, where they have hotels, a winery, shops, horses, and restaurants. We ate at a pub called Cedric’s, named after one of the Vanderbilt’s favorite dogs. We shared a ploughman’s lunch….

After dropping our daughter back at her house, I rushed back here in order to arrive before dark. There are a lot of curvy, moutain roads that are hard enough to negotiate in the light.

DINNER: The cover of one of my food magazines proclaimed recipes for “the world’s best grilled sandwich and home-made tomato soup”. So, unable to resist, we gave the recipes a try. They turned out really well. How could you go wrong since the grilled cheese sandwich included great cheeses……Manchego, sharp white cheddar, Monterey Jack, Gruyere, and Brie?

One down; 81 to go…

LOCATION: Housesitting outside of Weaverville, NC, outside of Asheville

WEATHER: Mostly cloudy. High about 50

We are taking care of two lovely animals. The dog, Abbigail was first a bit timid with us, but she has warmed up nicely. She is a rescue dog and still has some insecurities. Kevin is a huge and very friendly Maine coon cat. Loves to eat!

We enjoyed morning coffee with the daily “bird show”. At one point, there were 15 brilliantly red cardinals lined up on the deck.

After morning chores, we left for Asheville. Our daughter has just moved in to a new apartment, and George helped her assemble some furniture.

Then, off to lunch at Asheville Brewing and Pizza Company. It is one of 82 breweries/microbreweries/nanobreweries/distilleries/brewpubs in Asheville. Amazing! I had a hoppy IPA and George had a bourbon-barreled stout. This brewpub is really funky. They have a theater and show Indie-type movies in the afternoons and evenings. We shared a spinach burger (vegetarian). I’m going to try to make one some day.

Back home, we relaxed with some popcorn in front of the fireplace, George watching sports while I read. Very cozy!!!

DINNER: Using leftover pasta from dinner at the restaurant the other evening, I jazzed it up with hard Italian salami bits, onions, and garlic. I think it was better than the first time around!!

Christmas Holiday in Asheville

LOCATION: Weaverville, outside of Asheville, NC

WEATHER: Cloudy and cool; Highs in 40s

We have been taking it easy in our tiny house in Mission, Texas. On our last evening, we played a game of chess…

We had a nice dinner out with our neighbors. Then, the next morning, the kind neighbors took us to our local McAllen airport at 5:30 AM for an early flight. We flew to Houston, then to Charlotte, NC. There, we picked up a rental car and drove 2 hours to Asheville.

Asheville had just had a whopper of a blizzard, but the snow has now been cleared. An army of about 100 utility trucks were returning to Charlotte after having restored power to a lot of Asheville customers.

The first thing we did was to hug our daughter who works at the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Asheville, in the Biltmore Village.

It is a beautiful hotel, now decorated for the holidays.

We got situated in our hotel (not the expensive Grand Bohemian). The next day we spent helping our daughter get situated in her new apartment.

Now we are at our latest housesitting assignment, through Trusted Housesitters. Our charges are a rescue dog (quite cute) and a big cat (one that someone dropped off along their road). We are in a darling mountain cabin, with fireplaces upstairs and down. I’m going to try out the hot tub (a la natural) soon.

We spent today watching the beautiful cardinals in awe. They throng to the bird feeding stations on the deck that overlooks the mountains.

We stocked up at the grocery store for our two weeks here.

DINNER: Rotiserrie chicken, baked potatoes, and peas.

Christmas Sing-along

LOCATION: Mission, Texas in our tiny house in Retama Village

WEATHER: Cool (60s) and sunny

We have been taking it easy the past two weeks. George reads a lot and I have been scurrying to various activities here in Retama Village – yoga, chair yoga, line dancing, and water aerobics. It is great exercise and a good way to meet people.

We had our annual Christmas sing-along at the clubhouse. One of our friends, Joe Massey, leads the singing. He has a professional voice. There were lots of Christmas cookies and other goodies left over from the bake sale. Earlier, Joe had persuaded me to accompany him on the piano. I used to play a lot, but probably haven’t played in more than 30 years! So, I have been practicing a lot for this event, and unfortunately gave my self carpal tunnel or something.

In any case, the event was a lot of fun….

Thanksgiving is finally over!

LOCATION: Our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER: Beautiful. Sunny. High 80

When I last bought coffee at the grocery store, the coffee grinder must have not been working, as the ground coffee came out much too coarse to use in our coffee maker. So using our Mexican mortar and pestle (aka being cheap and not wanting to buy a regular coffee grinder), I ground up the coffee into a finer grind…

On our way driving out of our village, George spotted a gas grill marked “Gratis” sitting in someone’s driveway. Not wanting to pass up free stuff, we loaded it onto the back of the pick-up and took it home. He thinks it will work very well.

I have been working with our community’s quilting group on a project. My aunt and uncle in Canada gave me a quilt that my great-grandmother made. The quilting group here says it is too fragile to mend to use as a quilt, and suggested that they “deconstruct” part of it and put it in a shadowbox. I bought the shadowbox. My aunt is sending me my great-grandmother’s needle, thread, and thimble that I will add to the display. I will also frame this photo showing several generations – my mother, grandmother, great-aunt and the quilter, my great-grandmother

We ran a few errands, including a stop at the grocery store to buy some cherry juice which is supposed to help George with his gout. And, I was able to pick up a book from the library to read for our community book club group. A successful outing.

Well, Thanksgiving is finally over! You will be relieved not to read about any more Thanksgiving dinner leftover meals!

DINNER: I found this recipe that called for chicken, but I substituted the last of the Thanksgiving turkey for the chicken. It is a Tex-Mex type of pizza. We really enjoyed it…….Using store-bought pizza dough (the Pillsbury kind in the cylinder), I lined a Pyrex 8X11 pan with the dough. I topped it with taco sauce, slices of red onion, some drained black beans, chopped green pepper, canned chopped green chilies, the diced turkey that I had dredged in Mexican herbs (like cumin, cayenne), a tomato, and a blend of Mexican cheeses. Bake for 15 minutes at 400.

There was more pizza dough than I needed, so I lined two small, round ramekins with the remaining dough and made mini-pizzas. Using leftovers, I made one with kind of a Greek twist- feta cheese, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, and green pepper bits. The other one is Italian style – salami slices, tomato sauce, zucchini dice, mozarella and parmesan cheeses. They will be great to warm up for lunches.

Christmas decor at Retama

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Sunny and warm – 83

This morning, we had our annual community clubhouse decorating get-together. Lots of people come to help decorate for Christmas each year. This year’s theme is a Very Merry Texas Christmas. So, many of the decorations have a cowboy theme, such as this tabletop decoration…

and these cowboy stockings on the fireplace…

The kitchen looks nice…

Unfortunately, we couldn’t help decorate, as George’s foot was really bothering him – painful and swollen up. So, we went to an urgent care center, where he was diagnosed with gout!!! I’ve always heard that it is the “rich man’s disease”, due to eating and drinking too much. That is not his case, as he hasn’t been drinking much at all after his surgery, and we haven’t eaten rich food, especially not a lot of seafood lately. The NP said that they don’t really know what causes the uric acid to build up, causing the problem. In any case, he got some meds for it, and hopefully it will go away in a few days.

I made it to one line dancing class today, but missed swimming class due to his foot. Hopefully the weather will continue to be nice next week, so I can get back to daily water aerobics. Since George can’t do his regular exercise routine, I brought him to my yoga class yesterday. I think he liked the stretching and light cardio workout.

Speaking of food….

For dinner, I used up some of the green beans from Christmas with a good “pesto pasta”. In addition to the green beans, it had cherry tomatoes, small diced salami bits, onions, parmesan and pesto.. Pretty good.