Just no end to the excitement today….

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER: Another hot one.  High 90.  I heard today that the month of April here has averaged 10 degrees above normal.  (And I thought the heat was just me!)

Today was chock-full of excitement.  Where do I  begin…..

First, we moved the Airstream to a porthouse a few blocks from our house.  The owners, gone for the season,  gave us permission to park in their driveway, to keep the sun off the Airstream.  Since we will be here another 2-4 weeks, it will be nice to have it in the shade.  This driveway is quite long, and George had no problem backing it in….

Attendance at water aerobics is picking up.  I think more people now are feeling safer about getting out.  We have to watch the 10-person maximum rule, though.  We moved the class from noon (winter schedule) to 10:00 because it is too hot to swim at noon.  I thought I would never utter such words!

Since it looks like I won’t be getting to a beauty shop any time soon, I asked George to trim my bangs.  Whereas it usually takes my hairdresser about 30 minutes to carefully and slowly cut my hair, George did the job in about 2 minutes . whack, whack, whack, done!    We did it outside, so I couldn’t see what he was doing.  A bit scary!

Here are the before and after looks….

The  day still wasn’t over…more excitement to come.  We went to some friends’ house for happy hour and to see their new house.  They just moved from one of the port homes to a “real” house.  This happens a lot in Retama.  People’s lifestyles change and they move around.  Some couples start out like us – with a coach house and an RV.  After living here a few years, they decide to “move up” to a casita or port home – still using their RV in the summers, but staying here longer in the winters.  Then, some decide to bid goodbye to the RV lifestyle and settle down.  They like it here, so they either build a new “regular” home or buy a used one.  This is what our friends here did – coach house>port home>regular house.  We sat on their screened in patio (away from mosquitos) and enjoyed a hummingbird show on their feeders.  Fascinating!

DINNER:  Leftover Sheperd’s pie.  Out of lettuce, I made a salad with tomatoes and fresh basil from my pot. 

More departures…

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Not as hot.  Sunny.  High 85

Our dear neighbors next door, Michele and Dan, hit the road for Nebraska this morning. 

We will miss them AND their sweet dog Sebastian.

Now, all of our immediate neighbors are gone.  It seems eerily quiet and somewhat forlorn.

While I was at water aerobics, I saw an Airstream pull-up next to the clubhouse.  I was confused…..where was George going…..without me???  Turns out that it was another Retama Village resident who owns an Airstream, also heading out today – for Minnesota. 

One of the joys of camping is meeting new people.  I have often mentioned Tony and Jenny in Nova Scotia.  We met another couple, Daniel and Minnie, from San Francisco while camping at one of our favorite Texas state parks – Seminole Canyon.  They often joke about  being one of the only Chinese couples you see camping.  This is true….Asians don’t seem to enjoy the RV life.  This Facebook memory popped up today.  It was the same trip as with Tony and Jenny in Belgium that I posted yesterday.  Daniel and Minnie were just passing through Brussels while we were there  (they had rented a campervan to travel around Europe) and we met for a Belgium beer.

The highlight of our day was a happy hour Zoom call with our friend Heather from Michigan.  She had been on an Antarctic cruise in February (without wifi) and when the cruise ship docked back in Argentina, she learned that our world had turned upside down.  She had to curtail her trip in order to zip back home. Here she is on her cruise…

DINNER:  A trip to India tonight…..The other day, I dug out one of the millions (they DO seem to be multiplying) of chicken leg packets in the freezer.  I baked it partially in the oven, then had George finish it off on the grill to crisp it up.  I added that chicken to this Indian lentil sauce along with some diced onions.  When I went grocery shopping last, the shelves were mostly empty with only some some random, odd items left.  I spotted this lonely packet on a shelf and thought I would try it.  Quite good, actually!

Saying good-bye to neighbors

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Sunny.  High 85

Our lovely backdoor neighbors left this morning.  They are headed to Edmonton, Alberta. 

They didn’t get too far…..They parked on the street in order to hook-up their jeep that they pull.

When they got ready to leave, the stairs (on a motor) on their motorhome would not retract.  Steve worked for quite a while on them.  They finally were able to leave.  We will miss them – especially for evening happy hours across the fence!

Facebook popped up another memory photo this morning….This was from 2 years ago in Belgium where we rented an Air B&B with our Nova Scotia friends Tony and Jenny.  We have connected with them camping all over the USA and Canada, and this time it was in Europe!  This photo was taken at a famous brewery, supposedly making the best beer in the world,  made by Trappist monks.

A few readers have asked me about our photo art project.  We did it on the cheap.  The frames are simple ones purchased at Hobby Lobby a few years ago.  (We do not patronize that store any more).  We just place the photos where we want them on the mat that came with the frames,  then tighten up the backing.  No need for glue or any matting.  It fits tightly enough so that the photos stay in place.

We received our monthly mail packet today.  It is always a bit like Christmas when it arrives.  For anyone interested in a mail-forwarding service, we highly recommend Dakota Post, based in Sioux Falls.  Each month we instruct them where to send the mail, and the date.  It works beautifully.  We have told them to toss the junk mail, so we don’t get too much.  In any case, it is always fun to open it up.

DINNER:  Tonight, a nod to southern cooking.  I sauted some beautiful, fairly large shrimp in a butter and garlic sauce.  Then, I fried up some okra (really sinful, I know).  To use up Sunday’s leftover grits, I stirred in an egg and some parmesan and baked them in a ramekin.  It came out like a souffle.  Really good! 

Happy Birthday to George!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Not as hot.  Quite pleasant in the AM.  High 85

We enjoyed our Sunday morning rituals – CBS Sunday Morning while eating a southern-type breakfast of eggs, cheesy grits, and bacon.  I think this might be the 5th Coronavirus Sunday?  Hard to keep track.

George received a lot of kind Facebook Happy Birthday wishes, and we enjoyed a Skype call with our friends Tony and Jenny from Nova Scotia.  Here is their silhouette in front of their R-pod camper, lovingly called the TaJ-Me-Haul…..

We talked about summer plans.  We decided not to make any decisions until the end of May or so.  We will either do a modifed version of our original plan (Minnesota, Ontario, Quebec, New England, Nova Scotia, Labrador) with them if the situation improves, or do something different on our own like Colorado, Montana, northern Minnesota.  We will see. 

Then, a Zoom call with our daughter Alexis in Minnesota.  She helped George get some new apps set up on his phone – one for taking his pulse, and other medical assessments.

Then…..party time!

We had sent out a notice on the Retama Village Facebook inviting people to stop by, bringing a wine glass, to celebrate George’s birthday pandemic-style. 

He donned a bandana mask and gloves and poured wine to friends who stopped by.

About 50 people came.  It was so nice, and not even blisteringly hot! 

Feeling quite inclusive, he even bought a bottle from a winery called Trumpeter!  🙂

People cleared out in time for us to watch 60 Minutes, then Call the Midwife – to continue our Sunday rituals.

DINNER:  George grilled Hatch Pepper brats on the grill (something he had picked up randomly while shopping one time).  They were quite tasty.  I served them with cheesy mashed potatoes and a Mexican zucchini.  All quite good, but not very diet-friendly. 

Armchair traveler…

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Not quite as hot.  94.  (Every little degree counts!)

We are having a few gardening woes.  Yard service is included in our HOAs.  The gardeners, however, sometimes get a little carried away, and used the weed-eater this week on some of the vines we are trying to grow on our back fence.  And, we are trying to figure out what is going on with our water.  Our last bill showed our monthly water usage at 17,000 gallons – as compared to our neighbor’s at 5000.  We must have a leak in the irrigation system.  So, George spent some time mulching around the baby vines and doing some detective work around the irrigation areas  for the two problems.

Our neighbors spent the day at South Padre Island and asked us to watch their darling, elderly dog while they were away.  We love Sabastian…

We tried to have a Zoom call with our daughter, but the technology was frustrating this time.  We use George’s hot spot on his phone.  Sometimes the wifi is weak, and we have to put the phone in the doorway to strengthen the reception….

Today my Facebook was busy reminding me of housesitting trips we had taken on this very day a fews years ago. 

First, I got this Facebook memory – from last year in Lake Chapala, Mexico.  The town where we were staying – Jocotopec – is famous for its birria – a kind of mystery meat stew. 

On this day in 2016, we were in Australia.  This was at a llama farm in Tasmania…

And, in April 2017, we were housesitting in a drop-dead beautiful location in Abruzzo, Italy.  This shows the map, and the view from our swimming pool.  No one in the area spoke English – it was a great experience!

DINNER:  Finishing up a day of international travel……Leftover cassoulet.  Cassoulet is a bean/sausage/chicken dish, famous in southern France where we have a boat canal cruise lined up for October.  I had made this for a get-together of the neighbors who are hopefully going together on this cruise.  I decided it had been in the freezer long enough.  If/when we do have a get-together to plan our trip, I will make a new batch.  Side was a take-and-bake French baguette. 

PBS showed a newer theatric version of “Sound of Music”. It wasn’t Julie Andrews, but it was still good.

Finishing up the art project, and thinking summer….

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Another 100+ day.  Mostly sunny

We received “the call” that we have been anticipating today….that our campground reservation for Big Bend on May 1 has been canceled.  We also heard from our Nova Scotia friends, Tony and Jenny, with whom we had planned to travel this summer, that the Canadian/US border may not be reopened for quite a while.  With all of that in mind, we have decided to change our summer camping plans.  Instead of going to the Northeast, we will go north to hopefully less densely populated areas.  Our idea is to find a campground/RV park where we can camp a month at a time.  Our logic is that it might be less “germy” than to be in a more transient situation.  We spent a week in Durango, Colorado one year and would like to return there.  We also sped through Wyoming and Montana last year,  and might return there for a more leisurely experience.  Finally, we are also looking at Minnesota – to see family and friends.

So – if anyone has any campground/RV park recommendations for Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and northern Minnesota – send them my way please!

We will probably stay here until the end of May, to see if the coronavirus is more under control by then.  George found a homeowner who will let us move our Airstream to his covered porthome driveway.  That will keep the blazing sun off the Airstream while we wait out this virus.

Today was the last day of our artwork project.  The main wall in our living/dining/kitchen area has 3 photo groupings.  I showed you the first two on the left yesterday – with photos of our housesitting assignments all over the world.  The vertical one on the right is the one we re-did today.  It had held a newspaper article from our Rochester, Minnesota newspaper about our travels.  The newspaper was getting yellow and wrinkly, and we were tired of looking at it.  So, we substituted a collage of some photos from our trip to Africa this past fall/winter

The top photo is the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship, which we took from Southampton (near London) to Capetown, South Africa.  This photo was taken from Lisbon, Portugal where we stopped for a day.  We climbed to a scenic viewpoint at the top of the city and looked down on the port.

The cruise was 17 days long, and we really enjoyed it.  After the cruise,  we spent about 10 days in cosmopolitan Capetown staying at a centrally-located AirB&B.  We loved it!   From there, we flew to Botswana, and took a tiny 6-passenger airplane to a safari camp on the Okavango Delta.  The staff – cooks, waiters, cleaning personnel, and guides – all greeted us with a song….

Each day we traveled with our knowledgeable guide to look for animals, and animals we certainly did see! 

We flew to a second safari camp with a slightly different environment, so spotted even more animals.  From there, we went Victoria Falls, one of the largest in the world.  It is on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe.  It was magnificent!

Finally, we went to Kruger National Park in South Africa for a 3rd safari.  Then, returned to Johannesburg for a 3-week housesitting assignment there, taking care of 2 nice dogs.

Great memories!  This photo collection will help us to remember our fun times there.

DINNER:  We celebrated our last Friday night together with our Canadian back-door neighbors.  They like a particular hamburger place, so we picked up some take-out and enjoyed it with them. 

BOOK:  I finished another book in the Rhys Brown lady British detective series – “Four Funerals and a Possible Wedding”.  Very light.  4 stars out of 5

Day Two of Art Project

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Another scorcher.  High 100

Today is a continuation of the artwork project.  On the main wall (of kitchen/dining/living area), we have 2 picture frames with photos of some of our housesitting sites.  They are a great way to remember lovely experiences.

Here is a description of the two sets of photos.  Starting with the one that has the title Trusted Housesitters. 

Top left photo –

1.  Lola, probably the nicest cat we have taken care of.  This was in Portland, Oregon.  The homeowner’s backyard was like a Japanese woodland with tall bamboo trees and a koi pond.   One of our favorite housesitting assignments.

Going clockwise..

2.  A pub in a tiny town called Whithouse in the Cotswolds.  The town had 2 pubs and a church.  That is all.  Pubs in England are very dog-friendly.  When we walked with one of the dogs – a devilish Springer Spaniel  – to the pub, everyone greeted us: “Oh, you must be the chaps taking care of the Smith house” (as they recognized the dog). The flowers around the pub were so beautiful. 

3.  This was in a small town near Ballarat, Australia – west of Melbourne.  The homeowner (pictured) renovated a stable and bakery, built in Australia’s Gold Rush period of mid-1800s.  He converted the buildings into their home, combining the two buildings  in keeping with the architecture of the time.  Sadly, their dog died right before our assignment took place, but they asked us to housesit anyway.

4.  This is me, impersonating one of the nurses on the BBC show “Call the Midwife”.  While we were in England, we tried to go to all of the filming locations of our favorite BBC shows  – like Downton Abby, The Vicar of Dibley, Doc Martin, and here – Call the Midwife

Bottom left –
5.  Back to another house in England’s Cotswolds area, one of our favorite places to be.  We hiked around this small village, and of course stopped for a pint at the pub.  Keep calm and carry on!

6.  Bainbridge Island – across the bay in Seattle.  We stayed in a beautiful home on the island, caring for a cat that needed asthma treatments.  The homeowner was very appreciative of our care (as you can imagine the cat was not too fond of the treatments)

7.  In the US Virgin Islands.  Here we housesat for a little dog that was used to his owners not being around much.  The homeowners loaned us their car and recommended that we spend time driving around to the various beaches.  George met a little chickie at this beach – she brought him his rum drink right to the water

Second photo collage –

Top left –
1.  At a vicarage in Sheffield, England – near where BBC filmed “Last of the Summer Wine”.    Here we cared for some cats, chickens, and goldfish.  The backyard was literally this 18th century cemetary.  I loved spending time reading the tombstones.

2.  Middle left

At a mansion that was a restored barn.  The homeowners did all of the work.  I explored the house, counting at least 7 bathrooms.  This was in the western part of England, not far from Wales.  The dog we cared for there was a sweetie.

3.  Bottom left

We did two assignments at this organic farm in northern California – one for 3 weeks, and the second for 6 weeks.  We harvested their veg and took it to the farmers’ markets on the weekends.  A lot of work!  We were off the grid, surrounded by wildfires, amid lots of rattlesnakes! 

Top middle…

4.  One of our favorite of all locations – Tasmania (Australia).  This is called Wineglass Bay as it looks kind of like the bottom stem of a wineglass.  After we did the assignment with 2 sweetie pie dogs and a big bird,  the homeowners loaned us their RV and we spent about a month traveling all around the island. One of our best experiences housesitting!

5.  Middle

This cat gave us a scare.  This was in Singapore.  The homeowners told us that the cat liked to go exploring and would return each evening.  Well, she didn’t!  She was gone for 2 days, and I was frantic.  Finally, she returned home, a bit bedraggled from a male friend’s attention.  We spent our days touring around this unique city – great fun

6.  Middle
This was near Adelaide, Australia where we took care of an elderly tiny dog.  Adelaide has a great tram system, so were able to explore the area a lot.  A kind neighbor took us on day trips, including to this area with lots of kangaroos.

7.  Botton middle

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota – our home town!  This was one of the first housesitting assignments we had.  Our daughter had cared for their dog before, and this time we subbed for our daughter. 

Top right

8.  Fifeshire, Scotland.  This was a very nice, young couple from France teaching at St. Andrew’s University there.  We rented a car and drove around the countryside, looking for some of my family roots.    Here we took care of 2 cats and 2 chickens.

Middle right

9.  The Ghan – a luxury train that we took from Adelaide, Australia, up to Darwin (picture a route similar to New Orleans to Minneapolis).  It was a real splurge, but really worth it.  We spent a total of 5 months in Australia, housesitting all around the continent.  

Bottom right –

10.  Heaven on earth.  This was in Abruzzo, Italy.  The homeowners used one building as an AirB&B, where we stayed with this beautiful swimming pool overlooking vineyards and mountains.  Here we took care of a cutie dog, 2 cats, and a wild fox!

We spent some time arranging the photos for the 3rd photo grouping.  Watch for it on tomorrow’s post!  I can’t provide too much excitement to you in one day….thinking of your blood pressure!!!

Another highpoint of the day (wow – we really crammed in a lot of activity!) was a telemed conference between George and his doctor.  It is such a great way to be cared for.  She reviewed his blood work, status, etc.  He reported on his vital signs – blood pressure, weight, and temperature.  This might be the new future of medical care. 

Today on Facebook, a memory of what we were doing a year ago popped up. We were housesitting at Lake Chapala, near Guadalajara, Mexico. These photos were taken in the homeowner’s back yard. We are modeling shirts we bought at the market that morning…

DINNER:  A bit of an Asian theme…..Grilled ahi tuna steak.    I cook them so that they are brown on the outside and still pink in the center.  I finished it with a bit of sesame oil and soy sauce. (One steak is enough for the 2 of us).   Sides were rice and Asian-style veg – zucchini and onions stir-fried in sesame oil.  Another side was some quickly sauteed asparagus.  This is the 3rd meal of one bunch of asparagus, which I just love in the spring.  Tomorrow for breakfast, I will cook up the rest using a recipe I found combining asparagus, an egg cooked over easy, with some good cheese sprinkled on top.  It is supposed to be a delicious combination.