Lazy Sunday

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Hot and humid.  98

It was a very lazy Sunday.  We watched CBS Sunday Morning while George cooked our traditional Sunday morning breakfast – grits, eggs, and bacon.  (Bacon just for George).

And then….I did absolutely NOTHING the entire day.  It was too hot to go outside, and being Sunday there were no classes.  I am afraid that this is what I have to look forward to if we stay here this summer.  I read a good book all day.  And that is about it!

I am going to start posting memories that pop up on Facebook.  This one popped up today from 5 years ago.  We were camping in Durango, Colorado.  A snowstorm came through during the night.  We woke up to this beauty….

We really liked Durango and would like to return.  We stayed at an RV park on the edge of town that was on the bus route, so we could easily get into town without driving.  (A good thing since we visited a lot of microbreweries).  Also, a tourist train went through the RV park twice a day and it was fun waving to the passengers.  While there, we participated in a Durango clean-up day – when mostly young people spent the day together picking up trash.  They were amazed that we (old people and not local) would volunteer.  We were on teams, with a contest for the team that picked up the most.  Afterwards, we all had lunch together.  They were mostly college kids, and really nice.  Another fun thing we did in Durango was to participate in a downtown wine-tasting fund-raiser.  They gave us glasses and we meandered from shop to shop looking at their wares and tasting wine and nibblies.  Overall, Durango was on our top 10 list.

One of the residents had a birthday today.  To celebrate, he posted on our village Facebook page, that he would put out a cooler of beer and everyone was invited to stop by and pick up one.  It was a fun way to celebrate, keeping our social distance…

DINNER:  A nod to Merrie Olde England:  Shepard’s Pie.  Sometimes called Cottage Pie.  I made a hamburger/vegetable mix with leftover carrots and onions and frozen peas.  I put the mixture in a Pyrex pan and covered it with a layer of cheesy mashed potatoes.  It turned out quite well, mate!

We watched my very favorite show on PBS – the BBC show “Call the Midwife”.  PBS is such a life-saver. On Saturday night, we watched the delightful Broadway musical “Kinky Boots” which we had seen advertised in London theatres many years ago.  If we come out of this pandemic with any money left, I will donate to PBS!

Marital togetherness – then and now

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Hot and muggy.  Overcast.  85

We dared “Germville” and dropped off a package of masks for our daughter at the post office.  Everyone was wearing masks and kept a safe distance.

Off to swimming afterwards.  More excitement today – we got a new CD with a new water aerobics routine.  Spice it up!

Not much at all in the afternoon.  George watched football and golf tournament reruns – guess this is some kind of guy ritual.

My neighbor, who has the same 480 square feet size house as we have, asked me: “Are your walls closing in?  Is George driving you crazy?”  She lamented that closeness with her hubby has never been greater and more excruciating.  George and I  actually do pretty well, as we are used to close quarters over our lifetime together. 

This brought to mind our “how we met” story some 45 years ago….

At age 24, I sailed – by cargo freighter ship – from Seattle to Nagano, Japan to start my 2-year contract as an English teacher in a Japanese village.  The trip was 17 days across the ocean with only 12 passengers plus the crew.  Very interesting!  Somehow, I managed to catch a train (without speaking or reading any Japanese)  from Nagano to Shimonoseki which would be my home for the next 2 years.

I found out that I was the only English-speaking person in the village.  I lived in a teachers’ apartment complex which was a real slum.  The walls were streaked with green mold. The tatami mats (the flooring on which I slept) was stringy and falling apart.   The wooden bathtub hadn’t been used forever, so the slats had shrunk and it wouldn’t hold water.  I did not have any heat – just a table with a heating element under it with a blanket, under which I would sit to warm my legs.  It was very dreary.  After teaching all day, I returned to this sad living situation and watched Japanese TV alone, trying to absorb more language. 

Japanese (at least then) were too shy to talk with me.  Several of the Japanese English teachers could  write English very well.  They could conjugate verbs, diagram sentences, etc but could not speak a word.  If they could not say something perfectly, they would just not say it!  So, they kept their distance from me.  Consequently, I was very lonely. 

School was 6.5 days a week, so I spent most of my time there. 

After about 3 months in my dismal situation, I started wondering if I should give it up.  I had traveled alone before, and felt pretty strong, but this was different.  Later I learned that none of my predecessors (former American teachers) had lasted more than a few months.

And then……one day while I was in the teachers’ lounge, the principal on a  loudspeaker called me (in Japanese) to the office for a telephone call.  Bewildered,  I answered the phone hesitantly….”Mushi, Mushi”  (hello in Japanese), and this male voice with a deep US southern drawl  said “Hello, my name is George Reid” – and we were married 2 months later!  He was constructing a golf course  in another town about 50 miles away when he heard that “an American woman” had moved to Shimonoseki, so equally lonely, he moved there…just to meet me! 

Not only was he a nice guy, but he could also speak English!  He also had many comforts that I did not have….hot water, a bathtub that didn’t leak, heat, a newly-woven fresh-smelling tatami mat floor, and a sparkling clean aparment. How could I resist?   I moved in to his 5th-floor apartment with a rooftop area where we could do yakitori – Japanese BBQ

Once married, life changed dramatically – with lots of fun adventures.  Now I was accepted into the Japanese culture as a “married woman”.  Housewives invited me to learn Japanese flower arrangement and  cooking.  We met Japanese couples who invited us to their homes, traveled with us, and took us on day trips.  Here we are at a Japanese ryokan (traditional inn) with a couple we befriended…

And, now as a married woman, I could go out, as a couple, and explore restaurants and bars, something I could not have done alone.  We spent a lot of fun evenings in our neighbor’s sake/yakitori bar

As the only English-speaking couple for miles around, we spent a lot of time together.  Since retirement in 2013, we have also spent most days 24/7 together – first in a pop-up camper for 6 months, then in a 21-foot trailer for 3 years.  Now in our 25-foot trailer PLUS the 480-foot tiny house….we really don’t have it bad.  Those walls aren’t really closing in….

DINNER:  I rolled some scallops in a parmesan/panko bread crumb mix and sauteed them briefly.  Sides were  parmesan-flavored couscous and a salad.  I usually buy fresh grains – like couscous and rice, but the stores have been out of these staples, with only these packaged grains available.  It was actually pretty good (and easy)

A Day Just Bursting with Excitement….

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Light rain in AM; cloudy and really muggy in PM.  High 80

Today was full of several exciting events.  Be still my beating heart!  Just not used to this pace…

As normal, one of the first things we do right after getting up is to turn on George’s phone.  It is our lifeline to the world…..he has internet on it  that we use as a WiFi hotspot for our other devices.  Today it just wouldn’t turn on.  Dead to the world.  He played around with it for awhile, then assumed it had just died of old age.  He went to town on a mission to either buy a new one or see if this one could be repaired.  He had a hard time finding any phone shop open.  They had signs on the door saying to go online to find the nearest store.  Huh?  How do you do that if your phone isn’t working?  Finally he spotted one, not our brand, but thought they might look at it.  Presto.  Voila!  He had just accidentally turned off the power!  Quick fix, and now we know….

While he was out doing all of that, I made an egg bake and delivered it to the home of my line dancing teacher here in Retama who fell right before the Coronavirus pandemic.  She broke her hip and elbow when she fell down hard on the cement floor while teaching us a new line-dancing step   After surgery and several weeks of hospitalization, she is now home and mending.  We chatted – she far away in the living room, and I at the doorstep with my mask donned.

Two rattlesnake sightings have occurred in the last two days, one of them across the street from us.  We have a guy in the neighborhood that answers residents’ frantic calls when they see a snake or other critter.  He has cages and equipment to carry them away. 

I efficiently did 2 loads of laundry at the community laundry during water aerobics.  Wash load during one class; dryer in second class.  This freed up my afternoon for………nothing!

While I did nothing in the afternoon, George washed all the windows on the outside and the screens.  Wow – what a difference!  Good man!

The highlight of our day was a video chat with our daughter and her boyfriend.  We had a virtual happy hour  – with beer and a wine she had bought at a animal shelter fund-raiser.   We had technical problems with Skype so converted to Zoom.  It seemed to work better.  Here they are – a photo taken a few years ago.

DINNER:  A nod to Mexico tonight…..When George grilled the other night, I had him grill a piece of fajita meat that we had bought in a local Mexican meat market.  I sliced the meat very thin and heated it up with sauteed onions and red beans.  I added a lot of spices – cumin, chili powder, and red pepper flakes – we like it picante!  Served with yellow rice (the kind you buy in little packets, as I cannot find any regular rice in the stores).  Side was an arugula salad (my favorite green) and some ripe tomatoes. 

BOOK:  I finished up “The Body: A Guide for Occupants” by Bill Bryson.  It is a non-fiction account of our bodies, and medical history, written in a light-hearted tone.  Even though he wrote it about 2 years ago, it is extremely relevant to our pandemic today.  5 stars out of 5.  I have been a fan of Bryson for many years, and feel like we have a lot in common. We were both born in Iowa in 1951 — now you know how old I am!!!  We both went to Europe while in college – he to England while I went to Spain.  He has lived most of his life in England since.  Our last housesit in Hampshire, England was just a few miles from his house.  His early books were about his travel adventures – so funny – the kind that make you burst out laughing while reading.  He writes very well and does a huge amount of research, especially in this latest book.  Highly recommend. 

A New Kind of Drive- In?

We got up early so George could go to the doctor’s office for blood work.  It is strange, during retirement, to set the alarm clock.  Not a welcomed sound in the morning — too much like work!

He really didn’t want to go to the doctor, but had to in order to get a prescription refilled.  It was a really slick process today….

They told him to pull into the main parking lot at his scheduled appointment time, and to then call the office.  He did.  Then, they told him to drive around to the back of the office, the employee parking lot.

The phlebotomist waved to us, showing which slot to pull into.

She approached the car and confirmed his identify. Everyone had masks on, of course.

Then, she got her gear ready, and George unbuckled his seat belt in order to move around a bit.

Then, she drew his blood while he was still sitting in the driver’s seat.

We were out of there in 15 minutes, with limited exposure to anyone.  What a great system!  In a week, George has a tele-medicine meeting via Zoom with his doctor to review his bloodwork results and overall physical well-being.  This was SO much better than sitting in a crowded waiting room forever, and being exposed to who-knows-what.

Hungry, we looked for some breakfast.  Not many options.  We found a cute cafe that had converted itself to drive-up.  They had marked the parking lot up so you can pull in to a parking slot.  The waiter came to the truck to take our order.  Again, very little exposure to anything.  We shared a tasty breakfast sandwich.

Since we were in that part of town, we stopped at a specialty fruit and veg shop.  It wasn’t very crowded, and they seemed to be taking a lot of precautions.  The only disappointment was that they were out of most of the things we wanted.  I picked up some things for neighbors, too.

On our way home, we filled up the pick-up for $1.32/gallon. We were feeling proud of ourselves until we drove a block farther and saw it for $1.29. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

 

In the afternoon, I fertilized my herbs and some baby plants we are trying to grow.  Did some reading.

DINNER:  To India tonight…..Chicken tikka masala over rice.  I warmed up some of the leftover chicken, carrots, onions, and sweet potatoes (from the chicken roast dinner the other night) and stirred in the store-bought sauce.  Served over rice.  Side was pita bread with raita – a condiment made of diced cucumbers in Greek yogurt, flavored with turmeric and cumin.  Very Indian! 

A boy playing with fire….

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Perfect!  Hard to believe that we were 102+ last week while it struggled to get to 70 today.  Sunny.

Since water aerobics was canceled again for the day (too cool), I took a nice, long walk around the neighborhood. 

I honestly cannot say what I did all day!  It is scary to think how a day can go by without remembering any details….the days blur together.

In the late afternoon, George lit a campfire so that he could transfer the coals to the grill for grilling some meat up.

Why does anyone need so many grills?  We (George, that is) have four, plus the firepit!

1. This gas one is used quite often while we are in Retama.  It hooks up to the propane tank on the Airstream, and quickly does the job.  The best thing about this one is that it was free!  Someone in Retama put in out on the curb with a sign saying “gratis”  – thinking that only a poor Mexican might want it.  But George spotted it, brought it home, fixed and cleaned it, and voila! – we now have a nice gas grill!

2.  We use this little gas grill when we are on the road.  We will take just this one while we are traveling this summer.  (Notice I said “when” not “if”)  🙂 

When we are camping, our first choice of cooking out is the campground’s grill.  If they don’t offer one or if it is not very nice, we pull out this small gas grill and cook on the picnic table. It also hooks up to the Airstream’s propane tanks, so we don’t have to haul a separate propane container around.

3.  This big guy is used quite often while we are in Retama.  It doubles as a smoker…..

4.  This one is called “Little Smokie”.  I really don’t understand why we need this one, too, but George is the expert.  We use it when we want a wood-fire taste and have only a small amount of food to grill.  We use mesquite from Mexico which provides a nice taste….

In fact, Little Smokie is the one we used tonight for grilling two hamburgers for tonight’s dinner, and some fajita meat for a a future meal.

While we were grilling out, and enjoying the beautiful evening, our backdoor neighbors pulled up their lawn chairs and we had a nice happy hour together….with the fence providing additional social distancing protection…..

DINNER:  Using one of the grilled hamburger patties, I made an Italian flatbread.  You might remember that we had shrimp/asparagus flatbreads about a week ago.  Tonight I finished up the last of the flatbreads.  I topped them with a spaghetti sauce, the crumbled up hamburger, sausage, onion, green pepper, garlic, grilled cherry tomatoes, and mushrooms.  A great way to use up dibs and dabs of vegetables.  I finished them off with fresh basil from my flower pot, mozarella slices, parmesan cheese, and pizza peppers.  Delicioso!  Although not good for the waistline……

Wishful thinking?…….

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Surprisingly cool.  High 70

Taking advantage of the cool weather, I took a long walk around the neighborhood.  I didn’t see many people, but those that I did see were strangely wrapped up in jackets. George was huddled up in one, too. Me? shorts, t-shirt, and a happy face.

Water aerobics was called off, due to the cool weather (at swim time, it was still in the low 60s).  So, instead, a few of us got together for lunch – keeping our social distance.  We ordered out from a local restaurant and picked up the food.  It was nice chatting with these ladies.  We all said “You look nice in clothes” as we only see each other in our swimsuits, wet hair, and sun hats.

George finished his floor tile grouting project.  Now I need to wash the baseboards.  Ugh!

Then, he moved on to a new project.  He washed behind the rock guards on the Airstream.  These guards protect the Airstream from flying rocks when we are on the highway, and get dirty underneath.

While he was doing that, I spent the hour doing “wishful thinking”.  I researched excursion options at each port during our planned trip around Greece, Israel, and Turkey.  Here is our itinerary…..

I compared the ship’s options to other options online – prices and offerings.  It was quite the job!  The trip looks so interesting, and mostly includes places we have never visited, although George did some archaeological work in Israel when in college. 

We are still hoping that we can do this.  It is scheduled for the end of October.  Who knows at this point?

DINNER:  A few weeks ago while shopping (in an unsupervised moment), George bought a HUGE bag of chicken leg quarters.  25 pounds or more.  They seem to be multiplying in the freezer so I needed to cook some up.  I did an old-fashioned chicken roast – baking the chicken in a cast iron pot with potatoes, carrots, onion, celery, and sweet potatoes.  George liked it a lot, but I thought it was kind of blah.

Gearing up for duty…

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Poster-perfect day!  A cool front came in, taking the low down to 60 during the night.  The day was warm – 78  – and fresh

The Rio Grande Valley gets a lot of strong winds.  When they come in from the North, like last night, they are nice and cool.  You can see the palm trees waving in the wind and the choppy water in the pool…

The pickleball players try to get their games in in the mornings, before the wind picks up even more throughout the day.

It takes some planning when I go to my classes.  This morning, I had outdoor yoga with our instructor leading us on the computer via Zoom.  I had to get organized before the class:  yoga mat, extra towel for padding to protect from the hard concrete driveway, belt, money, and now…mask.  Check, check, check.

Some people have gone a bit overboard, in my opinion, here about the pandemic.  We heard of an incidence last week in which some nosy neighbor called the police as he thought the construction workers were standing too close to the man whose house they are building.  Geez!  We have had snoopy people come look at us doing water aerobics, to make sure we do not exceed the 10 people max.  So, bowing to peer pressure, we wore masks today as we did yoga.  It makes for a hot-air experience!

I also have to think about everything to take for water aerobics:

swimsuit (obviously)
swim shirt – to keep the sun off my neck and chest
swim shorts – to wear to  keep the noodle used in one of the classes from chafing my thighs
paddles – to be used in another class
swim gloves  – to create water resistance to hopefully improve my flabby arms
towel
sunglasses – to wear while swimming to keep off glare
baseball hat- to provide shade to my face in the water
sunscreen
keys – to check mailbox next to the swimming pool (and just in case George locks me out of the house, which he has been known to do)

If I go directly from one class to another, it is so much stuff that I have to drive! 

DINNER:  I invented a Mexican casserole dish.  Tacos are just messy to eat, so I essentially converted a beef taco into a casserole:  I lined the casserole pan with slices of tortillas. I topped them with a mix I made up of shiitake mushrooms, bits of leftover ribeye steak, grilled poblano peppers, grilled bell peppers, onion, grilled tomatoes, and salsa.  I topped with Oaxaca cheese.  Pretty durn good!

The sunsets here are beautiful.  Here is one taken in our neighborhood….

Rituals…

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Record-breaking heat – high 102.  Sunny.  Miserable

We don’t have many Easter rituals in our family.  When I was young, I was the church organist, so I had to get up early to play at the Sunrise service.  My mother was a terrible cook, so we never had anything special for Easter dinner.  The church thing was interesting….the town where I grew up was tiny – about 300 people.  The congregations of the 2 churches could not afford a minister’s salary each, so the 2 churches  shared one.  We rotated Sunday services between the 2 churches.  The only difference I could tell between the 2 is the way we recited The Lord’s Prayer.  Since we rotated, I played the organ every other week.  The little old ladies would give me the evil eye when I tried to jazz up some of the hymns. 

When our daughters were young, we did not want them to eat a lot of chocolate, and besides, they were not real fans of chocolate.  So, the Easter bunny left plastic eggs filled with coins for the girls.  That’s about it for Easter.

We do have Sunday rituals – CBS Sunday Morning is one of the only good shows left on regular commercial TV.  We watch it as often as we can while we are eating Sunday breakfast prepared by George.  It is always eggs (the preparation method can vary), bacon (for George), and grits.  I had never tasted grits until I met George.  His are better than most, as he cooks the grits in chicken broth, adds cream cheese and hot sauce. 

Another Sunday ritual is 60 Minutes in the evening, another remaining good show.  Now it is followed by Call The Midwife, my favorite show of all times, on PBS. 

Speaking of breakfasts (was I speaking of breakfast?), we don’t do anything too spectacular.  We usually have a piece of fruit and some cereal – hot oatmeal for George; cold, raw oatmeal mixed with cereal for me.  We usually use almond or soy milk, as it has more calcium, is lower in calories, and lasts longer. It also comes in the rectangular box with a screw top which fits better into our Airstream refrigerator when we are on the road.   Occasionally we have toast with cream cheese/smoked salmon/capers.  We swapped a high-calorie bagel (which we cannot get here anyway) with a low-calorie piece of toast.  A specialty breakfast, if we have a good avocado on hand, is to make an avocado spread for toast.  About every 3 days we have an egg, prepared in different ways. 

One of the best purchases George has ever made in a garage sale was this egg poacher….. was 50 cents but he bargained it down to a quarter.  When we travel in the Airstream, this is one of the gadgets I take with me.  You just pop an egg into this, with a tiny bit of fat (cheese or bacon or butter) and microwave it for about 30 seconds.  Perfect results every time!  Easy cleanup.

Today was a lazy day.  Being Sunday, there weren’t any classes.  George went for a bike ride followed by a dip in the pool.  I couldn’t make myself go out into the glaring heat.  While we were suffering from 102 temps with no breeze here, our friends and daughter in Rochester were experiencing 10 inches of snow today!

DINNER:  I wanted to do ham, but did not want to just eat a chunk of ham meat.  I found a nice-sounding ham and vegetable stew in the British vegetable cookbook I have been enjoying.  Besides the ham, it included carrots, celery, onion, leek, and green peas.  It called for fresh mint at the end of the cooking, which I plucked from my flower pot.  Side was a crunchy French baguette – the take and bake kind.

Almost a ghost town….

LOCATION:  Tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Hot, overcast, and muggy.  High 90

Today I am struggling to think of an exciting event today. We did walk around the neighborhood a bit.  It is almost a ghost town.  Many people have left, and those that are here are staying indoors mostly.  We don’t see nearly as many dog-walkers or bicyclists. 

Some residents have packed up their RVs and have cleared out of their coach houses totally.

Others leave their RVs here and have either flown back home, or have driven a car/truck back north.

The pickle ball courts, doggie park, and boccie ball courts all lie sadly vacant. The bulletin board next to the swimming pool, normally chock-full of event notices, stands forlorn and blank. So sad!

We have friends that headed out this week to Ontario, Wisconsin, and Washington state.  They post about their journeys.  They say that have been successful finding commercial RV parks to camp in on their way.  They drive long days, stay in their RVs at RV parks, use gloves to pump fuel, eat food that they have brought along, and just hurry on home.  They say that almost the only vehicles on the highways are semi-trucks.

We had only 5 at water aerobics classes today.  Some people are afraid of potential coronavirus germs in the pool.  Some come only when the sun is shining, and it was cloudy today.

George completed day #4 of the tile floor grout-cleaning project.  He has just one more day left – good thing, as the sealer liquid is almost finished.

DINNER:  Jambalaya!  When I last did grocery shopping, there was no rice on the shelves, so I had to buy  some rice mixes, like this one.  I jazzed this up with shrimp, Andouille sausage, okra, bell peppers, and onions.  It was good, but not as good as it would have been, had we been able to do our Cajun RV rally in southern Louisiana that was scheduled for this week!  😦 

Our beautiful winter home….

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Hot – 88 and mostly sunny.  Rain in the evening.  Yay!

Before the day became too hot, George and I took a stroll around the neighborhood, admiring the flowers and trees in bloom. 

This is the entrance to our neighborhood.  These flowers attract butterflies.  The butterfly is the symbol of Mission, Texas.  We are on their migratory route. 

I believe this is called a Mexican olive tree.  It is very pretty right now, but drops its hard seeds (hence the olive name) on the ground making a mess for homeowners.

The man who lives in this house is an avid gardener.  He seems to be working in his yard all of the time, and his work really pays off.  He has given us some baby plants to grow – very generous. We are trying to grow this bush to climb up the fence in the back of our house. Maybe one day ours will look like this? (Doubt it)

A lady in our village posted photos of her beautiful patio where she grows lots of flowers, many in lovely Mexican pots. She is even baby-sitting some people’s flowers now that they have left for the season.

This yellow bush, which grows very fast and tall, is called an Esperanza (meaning hope in Spanish).  This bush divides our lot from the one next door, providing nice privacy.

We walked on the bike path that creates a perimeter for Retama Village.  Part of it has been designated a Monarch sanctuary.

Our plan was to re-enter the village using the construction entrance in the back.   For some reason it was locked (maybe because it was Good Friday).  Not wanting to retrace our steps, we sneaked through a hole in the fence.  Good thing Border Patrol was not watching us!

The developer has included several “green space” areas in the development.  Right now, they are lush (but smelly from a skunk!)

Our highlight today was looking forward to a restaurant dinner.  Many restaurants have devised special take-out service to maintain social distancing.  Wanting to support a local establishment, we ordered burgers from Ranch House.  They were really tasty…..and big!

There was another Julia Child special on PBS, so I was in my happy place after dinner!