Pickleball!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Very nice.  Sunny.  High 70

STEPS:  12,497
CLASSES:  Chair yoga and pickleball!

Last year a pickleball court was built in our village.  I’ve been wanting to try it.  Today, a friend asked me if I would like to join her to learn how to play.  Another lady, who is a real pro at it, taught us.  It was a lot of fun.  Of course, I am terrible, but it was good exercise.  I want to learn more….and improve!

Our pansies really are liking this cooler weather. 

Yesterday, for the Spanish class party, I moved the pansies and basil pots and used the stands for drinks and snacks.  It worked out well.

In the late afternoon, we went to some friends’ house for cocktails.  We made (and took) some smoked trout dip and some sangria (to use up some wine that isn’t that great on its own).  They live in a port home and have a beautiful outdoor kitchen and patio.

DINNER:  Leftovers on the menu tonight.  I needed to use up the gyoza filling (from Christmas dinner).  I added some mushrooms, rice,  and onions, and turned it into stir-fried rice.  Now I have more room in the freezer!

Spanish Class Fiesta!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  BEAUTIFUL!  The sun came roaring back.  No wind.  High 80

STEPS:  11,624
CLASSES:  2 water aerobics

I took an extra long morning walk since I didn’t have to get back for yoga class.  (The craft room is reserved for the sewing ladies on Thursdays).  I started with gloves and a jacket, but quickly stripped down to T-shirt only (and pants!)

It was almost 70 at noon, the time for the first water aerobics class.  Two other brave souls joined me.  Both have had falls and are doing the water aerobics as part of their physical therapy program. 

Back home, George and I rushed around getting ready for my final Spanish class.  We were in luck with the weather.  We dragged all of our living room furniture out so we could have the class outdoors.  I separated the chairs out so that couples would be together and 6+ feet apart from the next couple.  When we first moved here, we bought minimal furniture.  We selected  indoor/outdoor furniture so we could do what we did today…moved almost everything out.  I even took out my island (that I use for dish-drying) to use as a bar! 

We sipped on my world-famous margaritas during the class, then munched on chips, guacamole, pico de gallo,  and salsa as we chatted (mostly in English)  🙂  We have had 16 classes, and the students really seemed to appreciate what they have learned. 

A few couples lingered on, and we built a bonfire.  Once the sun goes down, it cools off quite a bit. 

DINNER:  Pasta with gigantic shrimp.  On his last fishing trip, George bought some HUGE shrimp at the beach.  I sauteed them with onion and garlic.  To make a sauce, I melted just a bit of cream cheese and added basil pesto and white wine.  It turned out swell, and was super easy! 

Beautiful day for a Wine Wednesday outing

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Beautiful sun, but still cool.  High 60

STEPS:  11,557
CLASSES:  Chair yoga.  Still too cold for water aerobics….maybe tomorrow

I spent some time in the morning preparing for our final Spanish class.  I have tried to teach the students practical words they might need here in the Rio Grande Valley – like ordering in a restaurant, talking with the lawn service people, etc.  I will miss the classes, but George and I are getting the itch to do some camping trips around Texas soon.

The highlight of the day was Wine Wednesday at our favorite bistro in the area.  We  had the patio to ourselves.  Wine is half off on Wednesdays, so we had an excellent bottle that normally costs $36 for $18.  This photo is too bright, but hey – we won’t complain about the sun!

We introduced our new neighbors to the beautiful patio. 

We shared a charcuterie platter that was excellent.

DINNER:  Back to Jacques Pepin.  This was a great vegan meal, and is very inexpensive. 

CHICKPEA RAGOUT

2 T olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup chopped scallions
2 cups diced tomatoes
1 T chopped garlic
1 – 16oz can chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup chicken stock (I substituted vegetable broth)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 T chopped parsley

Heat the oil in a saucepan over high heat and add the onions and scallions.  Saute for about 3 minutes, and add the remaining ingredients, except the parsley.  Return to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and boil gently for 15 minutes.  Remove the lid and boil a few minutes longer to reduce the liquid. 

Divide among 4 bowls, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.  A French baguette would have been nice with it, but since we are watching our carbs, we just had the ragout. 

“Cold” spell in the Rio Grande Valley

LOCATION:   In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Brrrr!  Cloudy, windy.  High 49. Low in the 30s

STEPS:  10,780
CLASSES:  Chair yoga.  Too cold to swim!

Everyone is talking about the cold spell we are experiencing.  It really is kind of funny, as it is not that cold compared to elsewhere in the country.  We did bring in our tomato plants, basil, and pot of pansies.

I bundled up and took my daily hike….

I had errands to run in the afternoon – to Office Depot to print out my final Spanish lessons and to the supermarket.  It always takes much longer than I anticipate.

The big news today was Trump’s visit to our area so that he could view the wall.  People were afraid that there might be riots, but it was peaceful.  He came to the town adjacent to us – about 5 miles away.  I noticed increased Border Patrol presence, but not much else was different.

While I was out, George played chess again at our friend’s house.  He is improving and likes to play. 

DINNER:  Smoked trout chowder.  Since it seemed like a soup kind of day, I used some of the smoked trout, potatoes, and vegetables to make a warming chowder.  It turned out mighty tasty and felt warm in the tummy!

Keeping warm (sort of) in South Texas

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Another unusually cool/cold day.  Windy.  High 49

STEPS:  10,418
CLASS:  Chair yoga.  Way too cold for water aerobics

The route for my morning hike is a big square.  Today, the first half – towards the south then east – was fine.  The second half – into the north and west winds – was brutal. 

A resident of Retama Village posted this photo today on Facebook.  It shows the Border Patrol catching a group of undocumented young men yesterday.  The photo was taken about 1/2 mile from here.  Many residents commented that they think it will get worse under Biden’s administration.  I just wish there were a better solution to the immigration situation.  Trump is coming here tomorrow to view his wall. 

Spanish class was the highlight of the afternoon.  We pretended we were in a restaurant and I had the students ordering food and drinks.  They are also learning the numbers so they can state their addresses.  Lots of laughs. 

DINNER:  George experimented with this BBQ recipe from the grilling cookbook he is studying…..

GRILLED CABBAGE

Take out the core of a green cabbage.  Get a hot fire started on the grill.  Make a ring made out of aluminum foil to keep the cabbage upright.  Meanwhile, in a skillet, cook some bacon and onion in butter.  (Or could use sausage).  Drain off the fat.  Stuff the bacon/sausage and onions into the core of the cabbage.  Top it with pats of butter.  Use the drained fat (oil) to coat the outside of the cabbage.  Cook over hot coals for about 1.5 hours. 

When done, it creates a “wow” kind of presentation.  We might try it again when our daughter visits, but will use plant-based meat.. 

As I have noted before, there are 4 men in my life:  1) the REAL one – George my husband, 2) Jacques Pepin – whose TV shows and cookbooks I love, 3) Rick Steves – the great European tour guide and TV host, and 4) Bill Bryson  – fellow Iowan, European traveler, and excellent writer.  Tonight we hung out with Rick Steves and watched one of his pocasts about European festivals.  Delightful!

BOOK:  “Playing with Fire” by Peter Robinson .  This is my go-to series when I am waiting for on-line books to become available. It is the detective series that takes place in North Yorkshire, England.  I like it due to the characters and the descriptions of pubs and landscape.  4 stars out of 5

A Blustery Day for South Texas

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Not very pleasant.  Drizzle most of the day.  High 49

The light rain started during last night and continued on and off most of today.  We should not complain, as we need water here.    It has hardly rained at all since we arrived back here in October. 

Needless to say, it was a great day to stay indoors.  Being Sunday, I gave myself a rest from my hike.  (Thank goodness!)

  We finally relented and turned on the heat.  I read most of the day – finishing one book and starting/almost finishing a second!  George kept busy….First he made a dip using one of the smoked trout pieces.  Then, he made ceviche with some of the shrimp he bought on the Gulf Coast and some of the drum fish he had caught.  Then, he went over to our friends’ house to play (and lose) chess.  Actually it was 2 to 1. 

A highlight of the day were 2 PBS shows – “Food Flirts” are two elderly Jewish ladies that are a riot, visiting cooks’ restaurants, and then throwing a party making similar foods.  I had a boss years ago that was an elderly Jewish lady from New York City, and these ladies remind me so much of her.  She was delightful.
The second show was the new version of “All Creatures Great and Small”.  We love watching the scenery and the characters, as it reminds of us the time we spent there in North Yorkshire housesitting.  We were about 5 miles from the real James Herriott’s veterinary practice/house.

DINNER:  Back to Jacques Peppin.  Our main course was featured on the cover of his book. 

INSTANT BEEF TENDERLOIN STEW

2 T butter
1 T olive oil
1.5 cup diced potato, rinsed
1 cup baby carrots
1 cup white mushrooms – whole
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 T chopped garlic
1 c peas
1/2 tsp salt
1 # beef tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1.5 inch pieces
2 T dry white wine
3 T chicken stock

Heat 1 T of the butter and theh olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the potatoes, carrots, and mushrooms.  Cook,  partially covered, about 8 minutes until browned.  Add onion, garlic, peas, and 1/4 tsp of the salt and cook 1 minute.  Set aside, covered, while you cook the steak.

Heat the remaining 1 T of the butter in another skilled over medium high heat.  Sprinkle the remaining salt and pepper on the filet pieces and add the meat to the skillet in one layer.  Saute for 2-3 minutes until the meat is browned on all sides.  Transfer to a platter.  Add the wine and stock to the skillet and boil for about 10 seconds.  Arrange the meat, vegetables, and juices on four warmed plates.

I served with a ciabatta roll and Jacques’s COLE SLAW:

1 head cabbage shredded
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tsp poppy seeds
1.5 tsp sugar
1.5 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Tabasco

Mix everything together and refrigerate.  It is best if you make it 3 hours or so ahead of time.  I added some  daikon (Japanese radish) left over from when George made kimchi.  I cut back a little on the sugar

We paired this with a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon named Carmen!

BOOK:  “Fer-De-Lance” by Rex Stout.  Our daughter recommended this author.  It is a mystery-solver kind of series.  The author writes extremely well, and creates unique, vivid characters.  4 stars out of 5.

Smokin’ !!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Windy and cool.  High 60

STEPS:  13,426
CLASSES:  2 Line Dancing

We are keeping our line dancing class attendance low – about 4 people, so that we can social distance.  The teacher is a wonder…..She fell last spring while teaching us, breaking her hip and severely breaking her elbow.  It was so hard to watch her fall on the hard ceramic tile with cement underneath.  She is teaching us while standing next to a counter, so as not to fall over, and using videos.  We have forgotten many of the dances, but they are coming back to us.

George spent the day smoking some of the trout that he caught yesterday….

He couldn’t get the fire hot enough, though, so they didn’t cook as thoroughly as I would have liked.

This Facebook memory popped up from last year.  After our safari trip in Botswana and South Africa, we flew home via Dubai – to see the city and to break up the long flight a little.  It is an amazing, super-wealthy place . I don’t think I would want to return, but we are glad we experienced it.

The guy that he went fishing with invited us over for dinner to cook some of the fish they had caught yesterday.   We had a nice converation and enjoyed some of the smoked trout, followed by grilled sheepshead.  I took over some vegetables that George had grilled – squash and bell peppers.  I added onions, tomatoes, and garlic, and made sort of a  baked Italian vegetable dish.  I baked it with cheese and breadcrumbs on top.  All very nice!

Fishing trip to South Padre Island

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  A bit chilly and cloudy.  High 67

STEPS:  10,357
CLASSES:  Chair yoga.  Too cold to swim

George got up early and went with some guys to South Padre Island, about 1.5 hours away, for a fishing trip. 

It was successful – he sent me several photos of the fishing trip…..

The seagulls checked out any scraps that might become available as the captain cleaned the fish.

They ended up with a lot of trout and sheepshead. 

We froze some fish, had some for dinner, and set some aside for George to smoke tomorrow.

While he was away all day,  I ran some errands and gave a private make-up Spanish class.  A nice and relaxing afternoon.

DINNER:  I banked on George catching some fish, so prepped this Jacques Pepin dish for the fish arrival:

RED SNAPPER WITH MUSSELS and CHORIZO

1 pound mussels
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup water
3 T olive oil
2 potatoes cut in 1/4 thick slices
5-6 oz Spanish (not Mexican) chorizo cut into 1/4 thick slizes
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 tsp pepper
4 red snapper fillets (I used George’s trout)
1 T chopped parsley

Put the mussels in a stainless steel saucepan with the wine and water and bring to a boil.  Cover and boil 3-4 minutes, until the mussels open.  Drain, reserving the liquid.  Make sure you remove any grit.  Pour the liquid  (sans grit) back over the mussels.

Heat 2 T oil, add potatoes and chorizo and cook 8-10 minutes until both are lightly browned.  Add the onion and garlic to cook for a minute, then stir in the reserved mussels and juice.  Bring to a boil for 2 minutes.  Add 1/4 tsp of the pepper and salt. 

Meanwhile, heat the broiler.  Rub the fish fillets on both sides with the remaining oil and sprinkle with the remaining salt and pepper.  Arrange the fillets, skin sides up on a cookie sheet.  Broil 3-4 minutes.

Ladle some potatoes, chorizo and mussels into four soup plates with some of the broth.  Arrange a fish fillet on top of each.  Sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

Side was steamed asparagus with a mayo/lemon sauce

Fun with grilling

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Very pleasant.  High 70

STEPS:  13,569
CLASSES:  2 water aerobics

I had planned to get up at 4:00 AM to go to a Covid-19 vaccination center with my neighbor for a first come-first served vaccine.  About 9:00 PM last night, she learned that there were already 500 or so cars lined up ready to park overnight to wait their turn for the vaccine.  That was more than the number of vaccines they had available, so we scratched our plan.  I will continue to try to get on the medical center’s list. 

Two new people came for water aerobics..  They had not done it before, so it was kind of fun to teach them the routines.

Spanish class in the afternoon.  Another fun session. 

DINNER:  Tonight was George’s turn to grill.  He used Steve Riachlen’s grill book for the recipes…First I had him char an assortment of bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, and a poblano pepper. 

I used them to make this salad:

GRILLED PEPPER SALAD

2 red bell  peppers
2 yellow bell peppers
2 green bell peppers
2 jalapeno peppers
1 pobano peppers

For the dressing….

1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 T lemon juice
4 T olive oil
2 T chopped parsley or basil
2 T toasted pine nuts

Char the peppers on the grill.  Transfer them to a baking dish and cover with plastic wrap.  This will make it easier to peel.  Let them cool about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, make the dressing….

Place the garlic and salt in a glass bowl and mash to a paste with a spoon.  Add the vinegar and lemon juice and whisk until the salt is dissolved.  Whisk in the oil, parsley, and pine nuts.

Scrape off the charred skin off the peppers.  Slice and place on a platter for serving.  Stir the dressing and pour over the peppers.  Let them sit for a few hours to improve the flavors. 

This was really good, and very attractive.

The main course was hamburgers.  Using Steve’s recipe, he pressed two hamburger patties together with a pat of herbed  butter (that I had made earlier using finely diced parsley, green onions, and jalapenos) in between them.  They were quite tasty.

Sad, sad day for the USA

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Very nice.  High 78

STEPS:  10,698
CLASSES:  Chair yoga and 2 water aerobics

My morning hike follows the WALL.  It is interesting to watch the progress.  It seems that each day several feet are added.  There is a lot of activity – the actual work and the trucks bringing in the materials and concrete. 

At 12:00, the time for the first water aerobics class, it was border-line too cool to swim.  I thought I would give it a go.  To my delight, it seems that the water heater is finally working.  It was much warmer today, even though the air temp was iffy. 

On our community Facebook page, someone had posted a first come-first served Covid 19 vaccine available tomorrow AM.  My neighbor and I decided to give it a try.  We arranged to meet at 4:00 AM to drive about 10 miles.  As the day went on, we watched the news about this opportunity.  Hundreds of people lined up in their cars, planning to spend the night in line.   About 9:00 PM, the news announced that there were more cars in line than there were vaccines, so we decided to scrap our plans.  The other vaccine locations have administered the shots more intelligently – registering online, and assigning people a specific time.  Maybe this county-wide vaccine program will get streamlined as time goes on. 

I was on the phone for more than an hour trying to cancel our flight to Hawaii.  How exhausting!  In the end, they would not refund the money, but gave us a voucher.  Hopefully we can do the same trip – to Kaui to the same resort – in December 2021.

As we were working on this cancellation, I started getting calls from friends asking if we were watching the news unfold in Washington, DC.  What a sad, sad day for our country.  Appalling!  Deplorable!   I am so ashamed of our political situation. 

DINNER:  I have been neglecting Jacques Pepin, so I made 2 of his recipes tonight….

OVEN-BAKED SALMON WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATO AND SALSA MAYONNAISE

1 tsp canola oil
1 large skinless and boneless salmon fillet
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 cup combined bread crumbs and hazelnuts processed in a food processor

For the salsa mayonnaise…

4 oz sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
3/4 cup hot salsa
1/4 tsp salt
2 cup mayonnaise
3 T chopped chives
1 cup chopped herbs (parsley, tarragon, chives, and chervil)

Oil a platter or baking dish with the oil.  Arrange the salmon and sprinkle with the salt and pepper on both sides.  Sprinkle the hazelnut-crumb mixture on top of the salmon and bake at 200 degrees for 40 minutes.  (This seemed very strange to me, but it works).  George even thought it was slightly over-cooked.

For the salsa …

Put the sun-dried tomatoes in a food processor with the salsa.  Process until smooth.  Transfer to a medium bowl and mix in the salt, mayonnaise, and chives.

When the salmon is done, remove it from the oven and sprinkle with the chopped herbs.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

PHOTO

As a salad, I made his TOMATO AND MOZZARELLA FANS

4 large tomatoes
3/4 # piece of mozarella cheese (use the good stuff)
2/3 cup diced red onion
12 fresh basil leaves

Dressing…

1/4 cup olive oil
1/12 T sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pepper

Cut the tomatoes vertically into 1/4-inch thick slices stopping about 1/2 inch from the base of each tomato..  Cut the mozzarella into 1/4-inch slices and insert a slice of mozzarella between the slices of tomato, creating a fan effect.

For the dressing….Arrange the tomatoes on a serving plate.  Sprinkle with the diced onion and spoon some dressing on top so that it runs between the slices of tomato and mozzarella.  Tear the basil leaves into pieces and scatter them around.  Serve at room temperature.

Jacques’ tomato fan turned out beautifully…..

Mine were very tasty, but didn’t look quite as perfect as his.

We watched TV as we ate.  After dinner, we decided we couldn’t “stomach” any more of the news, so went outside and built a nice bonfire in the fire pit.