Inauguration Day!

LOCATION:  Galveston Island State Park in east central Texas
WEATHER:  Overcast, but mild.  High 69

We watched the Inaugeral in our friends’ motor home.  It was mesmerizing and joyous.  Let’s hope our country can come together again.  As we watched TV,  this was the view from the front of the motorhome…

We drove into nearby Fulton which is a cute fishing village.  We found a bayfront restaurant where George and I split a delicious grilled grouper sandwich. 

We checked out the Fulton Mansion gardens and hope to tour it when it is open.

We stopped to buy some bait at this shop run by some Vietnamese women.  I marvel at how they squat for hours.  This lady was cleaning some fish and the birds were watching attentively for scraps.

This is the height of oyster season.  We stopped at this shop to buy some to shuck, but they don’t sell small quantities.  Someone must eat a lot of oysters….

We saw fishermen hauling in oysters in the bay and  this delivery truck next to another restaurant.  Maybe tomorrow we can find some…

Back at the campground, we took a hike around the park, scoping out other campsites for friends coming here later in the year.  Trix, their dog, enjoyed the walk.

Then, George and Rob fished right in front of our RVs.  Not even a nibble, they reported….

DINNER:  My turn to cook tonight…..Shrimp tacos.  We started with tortilla chips, guacamole, and pico de gallo.  Then, I grilled shrimp and onions for the tacos.  I topped them  with some cheese, tomatoes, arugula, and more pico de gallo.  Side was some sauteed leftover leeks and zucchini. 

George and Rob found a charter boat captain that will take them out tomorrow.  So, fish will probably be on tomorrow night’s menu!

BOOK:  “A Strange Affair” by Peter Robinson.  This is the series (quite long) that I go back to while waiting for other books to become available.  I like it as it takes place in North Yorkshire, England, where we enjoyed a housesitting assignment.  Two online books have now become available, so I must dig in!

Road trip to the Gulf!

LOCATION:  Galveston Island Park, near Rockport, TX.  On the Gulf of Mexico, about 4 hours NE of our house.

CAMPGROUND:  Great park!  Electricity and water at site.  Picnic table inside concrete shelter.  $22/night.  No fire pit.  Clean restrooms and showers.  5 stars out of 5

WEATHER:  Cloudy and windy.  High 75

Packing for a 5-night camping trip is almost the same as packing for a 5-month one.  Lots of stuff to haul into Joy.  After a very busy morning, we took off about 11:00.  We are traveling with our friends Irene and Rob.  We were a little caravan, with them following us. 

We stopped here for lunch.  A great little place with a large parking lot (very much needed and appreciated).  It is out in the middle of nowhere.  It is a BBQ and seafood place.  George and I split a brisket taco which was huge and yummy. 

We arrived at the campground around 4:00.  We are so lucky to have been able to reserve two sites together right on the bayfront.  During the summer, it is booked up way in advance. 

DINNER:  Since we had a big lunch, we scrapped the original menu and just had soup and salad.  Irene made a nice, warming lentil soup and I provided a Greek salad.  We ate in their motor home.  We will probably swap back and forth during this trip. 

Prepping for a road trip!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Another great day.  High 78

STEPS:  12,352
CLASSES:  Chair yoga, 2 water aerobics

It was like a London fog doing my morning hike.  I could only see a few feet ahead of me.  Kind of eerie. 

Even though it was warmer, the wind kept us chilly doing water aerobics.  There was only one other lady swimming with me.  I stuck it out for both classes. 

We are going on a 5 or 6-night camping trip with our friends from here.  So, today I was busy packing lists and moving things from the house to the trailer.  It takes just about the same amount of stuff to go for a few days as it takes for several months!  I’m sure I will forget something.

We are going to Goose Island State Park for 3 nights.  We have reservations for a site on the bayfront.  Should be nice.  Then we go to Port Mansfield where we will be 2 or 3 nights.  George hopes to go on a chartered  fishing trip. 

Here is our route….

The house behind us (that is exactly like ours) is finished and is for sale.  Today a couple came back to look at it.  They are really interested and seemed quite nice.  And….they have an Airstream, too!  The small coach house on the side of that house is also for sale.  We are hoping that nobody buys it before this winter when our friends from Ontario hope to arrive.  We have been spoiled with either no neighbors or fun neighbors. 

DINNER:  George was hankering for goulash so I looked up a recipe and made it for him.  It turned out pretty well, but it was not like the goulash we remembered.  This one was more of an Italian casserole – with hambuger, tomatoes, macaroni, and cheese.  We have a TON left over! 

A very lazy Sunday

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Very nice.  High 75

I was a lazy slug today.  The most activity I got was doing the laundry!  Other than that, I immersed myself in a good book for almost the entire day.

George did a bit more….He played chess with our friend and then went to a farmers’ market/street party with these same friends.

DINNER:  We started with a Greek salad, from a recipe that our friends Tony and Jenny shared with us.  They are our camping partners, and we hope to reunite with them this spring/summer. 

The main course was from Jacques Pepin.  He says this was inspired by a famous Italian dish veal in tuna sauce.  He makes it with chicken breasts.  The poaching broth turns into a soup to accompany the chicken.  It was a bit bland for our taste. 

CHICKEN TONNATO

For the chicken…
1/2 cup sliced onion
1/2 cup sliced leek
1 cup sliced white mushrooms
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced celery
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
5 cups water
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

For the tuna sauce…

1 can (2 oz) anchovy fillets in oil
1 can tuna in oil
1 large egg yolk
1 T Dijon
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 T water
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Tabasco
1/2 cup olive oil

4 cups arugala leaves
1 T drained capers
1 T minced chives

For the chicken – Combine the onion, leek, mushrooms, carrot, celery, salt, pepper, and water in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and boil gently for 5 minutes.  Add the chicken breasts and cook them about 5 minutes.  Remove from the pan from the heat, cover, and let the breasts stand in the broth for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the sauce – Set aside 4 of the anchovies for the g arnish.  Put the tuna and the remaining anchovies in a food processor along with the oil from both cans.  Add the egg yolk, mustard, lemon juice, water, salt, and Tabasco and process for a few seconds.  With the processor running, add the olive oil in a slow stream.

At serving time, divide the arugula among four plates.  Remove the chicken from the broth.  Cut each breast into 4 crosswise slices and arrange on top of the arugula.  Generously coat the chicken with the tuna sauce and top each serving with 1 of the anchovies.  Sprinkle on some capers and chives and serve at room temperature.  Reheat the broth and serve with the chicken. 

Lots of gardening

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Very pleasant.  Sunny.  High 72

STEPS:  A record-breaking 14,723!
CLASS:  2 line-dancing

The weather was beautiful for a morning hike.  Lots of people were out and about, biking and walking, enjoying the great outdoors.

We had two fun line-dancing classes.  Since our teacher can’t dance (due to her fall last year), we sometimes watch a video.  It is interesting that most of the teachers/dancers are Asian. 

This fun Facebook memory popped up today.  So cute!  A salute to our Canadian family and friends.

Another Facebook memory appeared from 6 years ago, before we built our tiny house here in the Rio Grande Valley.  We visited South Padre Island, about an hour from here.  It was a chilly day.

We had two highlights today.  First was receiving a package from our daughter – a set of scales that I can sync to a pedometer on my phone.  I will be really high tech!  (once she comes to visit us and sets it up!!!)

The second highlight was a visit to a local nursery.  In an ongoing effort to hide the ugly electricity transformer in our backyard, we bought some plants and a flower pot.  These plants are supposed to be “cascading” when they mature, so hopefully they will hang down and hide the eyesore a bit.

George went to our village construction dump site to get some gravel for the flower pot.  While he was there, he spotted some decorative pavers and lined our peas/tomatoes/vines plantings.

DINNER:  British smoked fish pie.  This is something we enjoyed a lot when we did housesitting assignments in England.  It is a type of shepherd’s pie made with smoked fish.  I used the last of the trout that George caught and smoked.  I also layered on some smoked oysters and a few shrimp.  Then, a layer of white sauce with carrots, celery, and peas.  Topping it all was a layer of mashed potatoes with a touch of Parmesan.  It baked to a golden yellow.   It brought back memories from eating it in the Cotswolds.

BOOK:  “The Scent Keeper” by Erica Bauermesiter.  Very intriguing.  It reminded me a bit of “Where the Crawdads Sing”.  It is about the lives of a father and daughter, hidden on an island.  5 stars out of 5

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