The Beauty of Retama Village

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Hot!  High 88

STEPS:  12,311
CLASSES:  2 water aerobics

Our community really is beautiful and many residents have green thumbs..  Today for our morning walk, we walked a bit around our community before heading out around the hayfields. 

This neighbor is especially talented with gardening. 

I don’t know the name of this tree, but it has beautiful flowers..

There are many different styles of homes here, which is nice.  All are stucco, so that gives the community some unity.  This patio home was built while we were away this summer.  When you enter the front gate, you are in a covered area, then into a huge open courtyard/patio. This patio has an outdoor kitchen, 3 TVs, and a bar.  From there, you enter the main house.  It is very nice.

We also have some nice green space which is maintained by a yard service.  They do a nice job. 

Today’s excitement was laundry….:-(  Sometimes I think it would be nice to have our own washer and dryer, but generally we are happy with the openness the house has without the machines.  (The space is better utilized as a bar and wine rack!) 

DINNER:  Homemade broccoli cheese soup with homemade croutons.  Nothing too special, but different. 

An outing to Loretto’s

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Hot.  High 90. 

STEPS:  13,683
CLASSES:  1 chair yoga, 2 water aerobics

My mornings fly by.  We have a pretty steady routine…..First we take a walk from about 7:00 to 8:15.  Then, after a quick breakfast I’m off to Chair Yoga at 9:00.  Immediately following the class, I go to the clubhouse to use wifi, then back home by 11:00 to wash dishes, clean a little, and prepare George’s lunch. Then, a dash up to the swimming pool for water aerobics classes starting at 12:00.   They end at 1:30 or 2:00, depending on the day.  Shower, and then finally home to rest and grab a late lunch.  Whew!

This afternoon was special.  We went to Loretto’s, our favorite upscale bistro around here.  We went with some friends from Retama Village, our community.  We shared a flatbread and a charcuterie board.  Wine is half off on Wednesdays, so we shared a very nice bottle of cabernet sauvigon.  A very nice get-together!

After that lovely happy hour, we stopped at our friends’ house to use the internet.  We are going to go camping with them in a week or so, so we booked some campgrounds. 

Back home, I had prepared a light dinner, but we were too full from the good food at Loretto’s.  I will save it for tomorrow. 

BOOK:  “Circe” by Madeline Miller.  It was recommended by someone in an online book club.  It is a book about fantasy – gods and witches, etc.  Not my cup of tea.  I thought it dragged.  2 stars out of 5

Check-mate?

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER: Overcast, but nice.  High 85

Steps:  11,263
Classes:  1 chair yoga, 2 water aerobics

Today’s morning walk brought more interesting observations.  George and I started off together, on the road surrounding our development.  He then took the short-cut back home, and I took the longer 4-mile route.  Later we shared experiences – he heard rustling in the bushes on the short-cut road.  There is a deep ditch with a lot of brambles, where the undocumented like to hide.  Then, a few minutes later, when I approached that same road, I saw 2 Border Patrol trucks and two young men, all dressed in black, sitting on the grass being apprehended.  Later, a bicyclist approaching me from the other way warned me that there was a big rattlesnake along the road, so I kept a watchful eye.  Such excitement!

George invited one of our friends over to play chess.  I have a chess set that I bought many many years ago when I taught in Taiwan.  It has interesting etchings. 

(George lost BTW)

While they were playing chess, I drove to the Barnes and Noble bookstore.  A few people in our community have approached me about teaching some conversational Spanish.  I went to the bookstore in search of a book to use for teaching.  Nothing was quite right.  Most are thick books that start simple then get in to irregular verbs, past perfect tense, etc.  What my neighbors want is basic Spanish that they can use in a restaurant, or perhaps converse a little with a worker.  Plus, the books were about $35!  So, I went to our cute little public library.  I just LOVE libraries.  When we travel, we often use the wifi in a little town’s library.  These days, most are closed, but we can pull up their wifi while sitting in their parking lot.  Today, I found our library closed except for curbside pickup.  The young librarian manning the table in front of the library told me that I could reserve a book online, and then pick it up when it is available.  He said he wasn’t busy so offered to help me.  I told him what I wanted, and he went to  find a few Spanish language books for me.  This demonstrates the kindness of the Latino locals here.  I found 2 books that might suit, but have decided to develop my own guidebook for teaching.  While I was waiting for my books, two ladies came to return devices and get new ones.  I finally figured out that they are some type of modem that they check out (free) so that their children can have access to wifi to do their at-home schooling.  With the poverty in our area, many homes do not have internet, so this is a wonderful resource.  I marveled at the librarian who went back and forth, between English and Spanish, so easily and flawlessly. 

DINNER:  Omelette.  We haven’t had one in ages and I used a lot of ingredients I had on hand – pepperoni, cheese, onions, garlic, broccoli, and mushrooms.  It was tasty. 

Lots of exercise….

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  A bit hot.  Sunny.  High 85

STEPS:  12,041
Classes:  2 water aerobics

The nights cool off nicely so we leave our windows open.  Last night, the coyotes gave us a long, beautiful serenade.  Lovely!

We worked out in our backyard a bit today.  We are growing jasmine and other climbing vines to give us some privacy between our back area and the house that was built over the summer.  No one has bought it yet.

We have a beautiful tree that gives us shade and hides our yard from the neighbors on the side of us…

This is a bush that grows very well here.  It is called Esperanza – which means hope in Spanish.  We “hope” to train it over the fence. It is less than one year old, but is already tall.

The oleander grew quite a bit while we were gone.  Its purpose is to hide an ugly electric box in our back yard.

George did a workout in the community’s gym.  They have strict rules – limit 3 people at a time, wear masks, wear gloves, and wipe everything down well.  It is hardly used at all.

DINNER:  A few Sundays ago, George made a huge amout of grits for breakfast.  I froze the leftovers and tonight we ate them as a “cake”……  I mix them  in a bit of butter, an egg, and parmesan cheese, then mash them down in a baking dish to make a “cake”.  I dabbed a bit of mozarella on top, then baked until the cheese started to brown.  Then, I topped with a vegan (plant-based hamburger)  pasta sauce and warmed in the oven.  Side was steamed peas.  This is a really good way to use up leftover grits.  I think it is a common practice in Italy….they just call it polenta instead of grits. 

Immigration…..what to do?

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Can’t complain!  Sunny.  High 82

Steps:  10,091
Water aerobics classes:  2

George decided to forego our morning walk since it is Sunday.  I got an early start – 6:45 and it was still foggy.  I did the walk around the hayfields near our community.  As I was walking along, I saw several vehicles parked on the road in the dense fog.  As I neared them, I could make out four Border Patrol trucks and a regular passenger car.  As I got even closer, I saw the Border Patrol men putting two illegals in the back of one of the trucks.  The passenger car must have been there to pick the illegals up.  Then, a half mile later, I could see more vehicles on the road.  Again, it was two Border Patrol trucks.  They had just caught 10 illegals.  They were seating them on the grass.  I must say that the Border Patrol agents appeared to treat the illegals humanely…..They were distributing Covid masks and paperbags full of snacks.  I watched the pour souls tear into the snack bags and ravenously chomp down on some apples.  They must have been starving.  As I continued my walk, I could hear sirens approaching.  It was either for reinforcements or for chasing after even more illegals. 

My reaction?  I started bawling.  It is such a sad, sad situation.  All of the illegals were about 20.  They were skinny, and appeared very frightened.  They had their heads down in sorrow and desperation. 

Here is my rant…..We MUST find a better solution to our immigration crisis.  We are spending millions, if not billions of dollars on an ugly wall and  thousands of Border Patrol staff and vehicles.  Every other vehicle on the roads around us are Border Patrol trucks, vans, or cars On my walk, I walk by a horse farm that houses Border Patrol horses.  Today, the Border Patrol helicopter hovered over our community for about 8 hours.  Then we pay for containing the illegals.  When they get caught, they are put in cages and if they are families, they get split up. My neighbor told me that last week, Border Patrol picked up four groups of children ages 2-10. They were wet having just swum across the Rio Grande. They all had US phone numbers inked on their arms. My reaction? I feel so bad for the families. They must be desparate, sending them away with a hope for a better life for their children. Others in our community interpret it a different way. They told me (with great authority haha) that the Mexicans, or CentralEnd of rant!  Whew!

When I got home, George had prepared our ritual Sunday morning breakfast – grits and eggs.  We enjoyed CBS Sunday Morning with our coffee.

Since it is Sunday, there were no scheduled water aerobics, but I did two on my own.  It was kind of nice to have the big pool to myself.

One of our neighbors had a driveway birthday drop-in.  People pulled up in the golf carts or walked over, keeping social distancing.  It was nice to see some folks that have recently returned from the North.

DINNER:  I  made some tasty appetizers we enjoyed while we watched CBS 60 Minutes.  I stuffed mushrooms with some creamed spinach and added herbed cream cheese..  Yum!  Then, George grilled another pork chop from the Harvest Host farm where we stayed.  Sides were mashed potatoes and sauteed cabbage. 

We have a new President!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Another good one.  Sunny.  High 80

While we are in South Texas, I am going to try to walk at least 10,000 steps per day and do two classes of water aerobics.  I think I will forego chair yoga as I would have to wear a mask, and the class’s time interferes with the early morning walk.  From time to time, I will do a yoga class at home, following a DVD I have.  Today was successful with this excercise commitment – 13,109 steps and 2 water aerobics classes.

We made an outing today, something I always look forward to.  We went to a new liquor store, called Specs.  It is quite large, and has a lot of merchandise..  We bought margarita fixings – tequila and triple sec, and George bought 3 kinds of beer – a variety back of Belgians and 6-packs of IPAs and Oktoberfest. 

We were invited to some friends’ house to watch our new President speak to the country.  It was an excellent speech filled with hope and a desire to reunite our country.  I hope he can deliver on his promises, and we can begin to heal as a country.  We all did a lot of cheering and clapping and shared a bottle of champagne. 

DINNER:  Gumbo.  I sauteed onion, green bell pepper, and garlic.  Then I added okra, bits of leftover pork, and shrimp.  I added some Cajun herbs and served over steamed rice.  Last year, we signed up for a Cajun RV festival – music and Cajun food in Louisiana but it was canceled due to Covid.  We hope we can do it next April. 

Out of quarantine!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Another beauty.  Sunny.  High 80

We are trying to walk at least 10,000 steps daily.  We started the day with a 3-mile walk around the fields surrounding our community.  The road is pretty desolate, and is a popular place for illegals to cross.  We encountered a lot of Border Patrol vehicles.  If we continue to do this hike all winter, we will probably see a lot of progress on the Wall.  Ugh!

Each day it seems that another Winter Texan moves back.  The community is getting more lively, but there are several lots that will remain vacant, due to the inability/desire of the Canadians to return here this season.  We will miss them!

Now that we have passed our quarantine period,  I returned to water aerobics.  It was great to be back!  There are 6-8 regular swimmers.  We cannot exceed 10 in the pool at any time, due to Covid restrictions.  The pool is pretty large, so we can safely spread out.  My plan is to do 2 classes per day. 

I finally finished all the laundry from the summer trip.  Today was the last quilt that we used when we experienced some cold weather.

I made some broth from the bones and fat from yesterday’s smoked brisket.  The smell flooded our house and was so enticing.  It made my stomach growl!

DINNER:  Mahi mahi.  Since the pieces were fairly small, we cooked them in the iron skillet on the gas grill.  Sides were salad and Japanese soba noodles.  We paired this with hot, Japanese sake.

This is half of the package of mahi mahi.  The package will make 4 meals (8 servings) – for $5.00!  A bit gourmet at a good price. 

Smokin’ !!!!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Another winner.  Sunny.  High 80

Now that we are winding up our 2-week quarantine, we are getting out more.  We took a walk around the farmland that encircles us.  We walked along the road where they are building the wall.  It is just massive.  We will try to get 10,000 steps in each day.

The last Harvest Host farm where we stayed/camped had one dairy cow and a large herd of beef cattle – miniature Herefords.  Since the cows are smaller, the cuts of meat were smaller.  We bought a brisket from them.  Last night started the 24-hour process……

We rubbed the brisket with salt and pepper and refrigerated it overnight.

Then,  this morning about 9:00, we started the smoking process.  George got the smoker to the appropriate temperature and we put the brisket on.

Two hours later, he turned it over and started “mopping” it with a sauce — BBQ sauce, beef broth, garlic, butter, and coriander. 

Every 30 minutes throughout the day, he mopped the brisket and turned it.

Each time I looked, it seemed to have shrunk.

The smoker does a good job – lots of smoke!  He had to continually add mesquite wood chips & charcoal to keep it at the correct temperature throughout the day.

The smells radiating from the meat were heavenly.

After 6 hours of this 30-minute interval mopping process, he wrapped the brisket up in aluminum foil and poured the rest of the sauce on top.

Another hour later, the meat was ready to come off the heat and rest. 

When you go to BBQ joints in Texas, you usually choose from several sides:  fried okra, mashed potatoes, charro beans, cole slaw, or macaroni and cheese.  Dill pickles and white bread are musts.  For us, I cooked some okra, trying to fry it more lightly than normal.  I bought charro beans, but forgot to serve them!!!!  I served with dill pickles, but couldn’t make myself buy limp, tasteless white bread.  We didn’t miss it.

We paired the dinner with one of our wine club’s cabernets.  Delicious.  The meal was a big success.  Next culinary project for George?  Tongue!  He bought one at the same Harvest Host farm, and it is awaiting its day in the freezer.

BOOK:  “Heavenly Date and Other Flirtations” by Alexander McCall Smith.  This is a collection of delightful short stories about romances.  I really like his writing style.  Very light, but enjoyable.  4 stars out of 5.

Seeking professional help….

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Very nice once again.  Sunny.  High 78.  Low humidity, so we didn’t need to turn on A/C

We spent the early morning glued to the TV to see what the election results are.  Still must wait….

I sent out some Facebook posts asking for recommendations.  In a few years, we will probably want to travel in Joy, our Airstream, less, but still continue to enjoy her.  So, I am researching communities like where we live in South Texas, but in the North.  The idea would be to spend some time here in Texas in the winter, some time in another community in the summer, then travel in the spring and fall.  Some FB friends are responding.  It will be fun to go visit these recommended places one day.  I also sent out a request for recommendations for next summer’s road trip.  In addition to traveling with our Nova Scotia friends (a big HOPE), we want to spent some time in Michigan.  I’m collecting ideas for places to visit/stay there, too.

George finally decided he needs professional help…..for his hair.  We saw a billboard for a barber shop called Roosters.  Their claim is that the can fix bad haircuts.  George had cut his own hair a few weeks ago, shaving the bottom part and leaving the top scraggly and chopped-off looking.  So, today he visited Roosters.

Here are the “before” photos.  Kind of scary…..

And here he is, after the hair cut, back to his handsome self….

While we were gone this summer, the government made a lot of progress on the WALL.  The ugly eyesore is about 1/2 mile from our house.  This is the part next to the state park, which is an international bird center.  So sad.

DINNER:  Using the red quinoa a neighbor gave me, I made a quinoa and black bean dish.  It was really good, and easy to make. We try to have meatless meals at least once a week.  Here is the recipe….

BOOK:  “Motion to Suppress” by Perri O’Shaughnessy.  Similar in style to John Grisham – about an attorney defending a women in a murder case.  4 stars out of 5

Butterflies and baking

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Another beauty!  Sunny; high 80

When we are on the road, it is always Russian roulette when I get a haircut.  The last one I had was about 6 weeks ago in Wyoming.  It was not one of the winners.  I found myself with random long strands of hair in odd places.  So, today I returned to my favorite hairdresser here in Mission.  She fixed me up.  The salon is really doing a good job with the Covid.  The lobby has been closed; no one can accompany a customer.  The front door is locked, and you have to call the salon for someone to open the door for you – they don’t want anyone just passing by to enter.  The hairdressers are all masked and the customers wear masks, too.  When she has to trim around my ear, I undid the strap behind my ear and she taped it on my face.  There was only one other customer there, and she was far away.

From there, I did some grocery shopping.  Again, masks are required and everyone seems compliant.  I stocked up for the next 2 weeks or so. I couldn’t believe it…..they were playing Christmas music overhead!!!

We are on a butterfly migration path and the National Butterfly Center is practically in our backyard.  One of the residents here volunteers at the Center and took these photos.  I see many of these on our bushes, but my photography skills are not nearly as good as hers.

We invited a couple over to watch the election results.   I spent the afternoon happily chopping and cooking a lot of heavy snacks to serve as dinner:

• Toasted naan with an Italian flare – a sausage/tomato sauce topped with mozzarella and parmesan
• Toasted naan with a Mexican theme – cream cheese/cilantro base topped with a sauce made of diced chicken, onions, cumin, cayenne and chile powder.  Served with diced red onion and Mexican cheese
• Mushroom caps stuffed with a creamy spinach sauce
• Charcuterie platter – different meats, cheeses, olives, and artichoke hearts
• French bread

I forgot to take a picture of the good-looking food. 😦 

We watched the returns until about 10:00, but nothing had been decided by then.  So, off to bed and we will see what tomorrow brings for our country.