Exploring the Texas Hill Country

LOCATION: Housesitting in Fredericksburg, Texas

WEATHER: Beautiful! The sun came out! High about 70

We spent a quiet morning at the house: George worked on income taxes, and I cuddled the dogs. Then, off to explore the area.

First up was lunch. We stopped in Boerne at a cute brewpub. The weather was so nice that we sat in the outdoor patio. The brewpub overlooks a river. There are ducks all around the river and the road in front. I guess that is how it got its name – Dodging Duck Brewery….

Check it out at http://www.dodgingduck.com.

The geography for this part of Texas is quite different. There are lots of rolling hills and buildings are constructed with local sandstone. In the spring, it is famous for its bluebonnets and other wild flowers. We read that many years ago, Lady Bird Johnson (former president LBJ’s wife) had a passion for beautifying Texas roads. She gave all the policemen bags of wildflower seeds and instructed them to throw out seeds onto the sides of the roads whenever they pulled someone over. Cute story!

We took the backroads home toward Fredericksburg. We stopped in Sisterdale for a wine tasting. The winery there is the only thing in the town. It is located in an old cotton gin building. Check out the website for photos – http://www.sistercreekvineyards.com

From there, we drove a few miles to Luckenbach, population 3. The only thing there is a large venue for outdoor concerts. Fun place!

Back home, we enjoyed the last of the day’s sunshine, in the backyard with the dogs.

DINNER: Lasagne. I made way too much, so I see leftovers in our future.

Enjoying Fredericksburg

LOCATION: Housesitting in Fredericksburg, Texas

WEATHER: Still cool (50s) and overcast

We visitied the extremely well-done National Museum of the Pacific- www.pacificwarmuseum.org – in downtown Fredericksburg. Nimitz, who was born here, is featured. He was the Chief Naval Officer during WWII. Very impressive.

Our homeowners had recommended the Fredericksburg Herb Farm, and we decided to check it out for a late lunch. What a cute place! It is a collection of cabins, a spa, gardens, garden shop, bistro, and restaurant. The cabins were built from the German tradition of “Sunday Houses” whereby farmers would have a small cabin in town where they could spend a few days occasionally, and stay there overnight when they came in to town for church. We had a lovely meal – we shared a cup of French onion soup and a mufaletta sandwich. A bottle of local wine, of course, too! Check out photos on their website http://www.fredericksburgherbfarm.com

In the afternoon, we played with the dogs. George worked on income taxes while I did some computer work, looking at places to camp when we finish our assignment here.

DINNER: Fish tacos. I had bought a package of frozen tuna steaks. It seems extravagant, but the package ws $6.00. Two nice steaks. We split one steak, so $1.50 each! I added some grilled onion, jalapenos, cheese, salsa, tomatoes, and cilantro.

Pleasant Sunday in Wine Country

LOCATION: Housesitting in Fredericksburg, Texas

WEATHER: Cool (50s) and overcast

We enjoyed a slow, cozy Sunday morning by plowing through the homeowner’s NY Times and local papers, as well as by sharing the couch with the doggies as we watched CBS Sunday Morning.

We spent some time maneuvering the Airstream. I told George that I had to get something out of the refrigerator inside. He thought I had already finished, but I was still standing in the Airstream when I felt a jolt, and off we went! It really is a weird feeling sitting in the trailer as it travels. There was nothing I could do except sit there and hold on. He went around the block a few times, trying to get the Airstream positioned just right. He got it set up in front of the homeowner’s house. It is not a busy street, so should be fine there.

Then, after dog walks, cuddles, and feedings, we headed out for the afternoon. We did a little grocery shopping then tried out one of the many winery tasting rooms in the area. We went to one that is a bit off the beaten tourist path, recommended by the homeowners.

We met a group of Texans who were out sampling wines from several wineries in the area. They welcomed us to join their conversation around a cozy fire.

Back home, we played with the dogs and watched HGTV (not wanting to watch the Grammy’s).

DINNER: George grilled hamburgers and I used the meat to make a sauce for baked potatoes – with sour cream, dijon, mushrooms, and the burger. Yummy and hearty on a cool evening.

Newest housesitting assignment

LOCATION: Fredricksburg, Texas

WEATHER: Cold (39 high) and drizzle

We got an early start, and headed 5 hours north to Fredericksburg. As its name implies, it has a lot of German influence. The area has a Napa Valley feel — lots and lots of vineyards, tasting rooms, darling downtown with cute shops, lots of restaurants, and peach orchards.

We are staying in a cute, recently beautifully updated cottage.

Our charges are Baxter, a loveable beagle, and Chuy, an elderly mini dachsund. We parked our Airstream in front of their house and got settled in. While we were moving in, the dogs rested on the couch.

Chuy didn’t want to take a walk, so Baxter and I had a nice stroll around the neighborhood to explore.

DINNER: Chicken cooked on an outdoor George Foreman grill. Some herbed rice that I had brought with us and a salad rounded out the nice meal.

We are looking forward to our week here

A new career in modeling???

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: The weatherman called it “yucky” — cool and rainy

We attended the Photography Club in the AM in Retama’s clubhouse. These guys are really serious and excellent with their photos!

Then, in the afternoon was the Retama Village annual fashion show. Attendees (mostly women plus 2 brave men, including George) attended this British-style tea party/fashion show. Proceeds go to a nearby elementary school that needs financial assistance. Tables are set with finery and people nimble on these delicacies…

Three different boutiques in the Valley participated. About 15 of us models had previously gone to their shops to select items. We each modeled 2 outfits.

Here I am getting ready for my first outfit

Notice the leopard-skin sandals. 🙂

Then, down the runway….

Then, the second item…

It was a fun afternoon. I ended up buying a few items, since we models received a nice discount.

In the evening, we were busy getting ready for our trip tomorrow to Fredricksburg. George hooked up the trailer, after dealing with the lock hitch which had frozen up. A little tension until he contacted the company to figure out what to do.

DINNER: Leftover time. I made a broccoli cheese soup and had ciabatta rolls on the side.

The Day of the Hog Head…with a Little Super Bowl on the Side….

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Finally warmer. High 75. Cloudy

As I previously wrote, George bought an unapproved item…..the HOG HEAD while we were last grocery shopping. (He has a way of doing this while unsupervised) It is a huge, ugly thing, frozen solid. I’ve heard that the best tamales made by Mexicans here in the Valley are those with hog head meat, so the heads are quite popular and are readily available in the supermarket.

After thawing, the hog head became the focal point of Sunday. Super Bowl was a distant second. George watched a YouTube video to learn how to prepare it. First, he hosed it down to remove the dirt, hairs, and other unidentifiable objects. (I prefer not to think about it)

It has a cute little ear thing going on

Then, George got the smoker grill going with wood chips and pieces of wood left from our last fire in the firepit. It made a lot of nice smoke.

The head smoked all day, giving off pleasant aromas of smoked meat. It smelled a lot better than it looked.

He removed the tongue and boiled it separately in a pan. (I have no idea what to do with the tongue meat afterwards).

He poured apple juice on the wood chips to create more aromatic smoke. He added all sorts of ingredients to the smoking liquid, helping me clear out the refrigerator….honey, pickle juice, dried garlic, a jar of jalapenos in rum, and orange juice.

It continued to smoke throughout the Super Bowl game. We invited over a couple whom we introduced to housesitting who are visiting our village. I made two main snacks — a bacon/artichoke dip and stuffed jalapenos. After the game, the head finished smoking, altogether about 10 hours.

We went to bed, deciding to deal with the hog head tomorrow, and letting it soak overnight in the smoking broth. Notice the little teeth…..

DINNER: Dinner was the Super Bowl appetizers, as the game started at 5:30 PM. These are 2 recipes I recently found, and they turned out remarkably well (especially if you like spicy)

1) Smoked Gouda and Chorizo Jalapeno Poppers

2 links Mexican chorizo (or soy chorizo)
1/2 pound smoked gouda, shredded
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 egg
1/2 cup sour cream
1 T hot sauce
salt and pepper
12 large jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and halved. I used some poblanos, too. To add smokiness, we charred the peppers first on the grill

Brown chorizo, about 10 minutes. Drain the fat off. Mix everything together and stuff them into the peppers. Bake about 20 minutes

2) Artichoke Bacon Dip

1 jar jalapeno dip
1 T chimichurri rub
1 bag pre-washed baby spinach
1/2 pound bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled
1 cup parmesan
2 cans artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 bar cream cheese softened

Combine everything and bake 15 minutes at around 400F. I served with melba toast rounds

Having fun with the Retama Village “gals”

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Overcast. Highs in 60s

Our Retama Village sponsors a fashion show every year, with proceeds benefitting a local elementary school whose pupils desperately need clothing, etc. We weren’t around last year, but this year the organizer contacted me early to see if I would be available to be a model! The fashion show is this coming Friday. It is an old-fashioned tea party with ladies sipping from fancy cups and sampling little bits of fine finger food. There will be about 15 models, including one brave male. There are 3 boutiques that let us model their clothing. It is great advertising for them, too. Three of us were assigned this particular boutique in Weslaco, and we headed there this morning to select our outfits. What fun! Especially, since price was no object! The owner (pictured here) helped us select outfits that look good on each of us. After we found an outfit we like, she escorted us to the jewelery department to pick up jewelery that would look good with our outfits, then to the purse section, and finally to the shoe department. Then, we did it all over again. Each of us will model two outfits.

After 3 hours of trying on clothes (hard work!), we stopped at a place for lunch and chatted. It was quite nice.

Then, in the PM, I went to the clubhouse and worked on flights for our upcoming housesitting assignments. I found us flights to Seattle for less than $200. Yeah!

In the evening, some other Retama Village ladies picked me up to go to a line-dancing marathon. One of the RV parks has a very large community center. Ladies (and men) from various parks came together last night to line dance. Our group has been feverishly practicing the dances the last two weeks, as they are different from the ones we normally do. After about 3 hours, we called it quits, although we had only made it through 20 of the 39 songs on the playlist!

DINNER: Since I was out dancing, George was on his own. He fired up the grill and grilled a nice tuna steak for himself – charred on the outside, pinkish in the middle. While he had the grill going, he cooked up some bacon for a recipe I’m working on, and some liver and onions that he can eat one day for lunch (as I don’t like the smell, and didn’t want the odors in the house).

Great day!