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.

Oh, my aching back!

LOCATION:  Our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Beautiful once again.  Sunny; high 78

We had M & Ms for breakfast – mangoes and mandarin oranges.  We are so happy that we can buy fresh, inexpensive fruit here.  These are called honey mangoes – smaller than regular ones and really sweet.  Less than $.50 each.

I was on a rampage to finish up two major cleaning projects with Joy today.  I did my fourth (and final) mopping of the floor.  It finally is very clean. 

Then, I finished up the last of the seat cushions.  I had to lean over in such a way that my back started killing me.  But, I am done!

I used to nag George about cleaning his dinner plate.  I’ve eased up on that, and am happy if he can’t eat it all, resulting in leftovers.   We had tacos the other night, and some of the chicken/veg filling was left.  So, for lunch today, I made him nachos.  It is something I never think about making myself.  We usually are disappointed in nachos we buy at a restaurant….the good stuff is just on top, and you end up with a big plate of naked tortilla chips in the middle.  He said these were good.

I try to stay away from politics in this post, but I will say that I can’t wait for this election to get over.  I am so tired of political ads on TV and political signs that are a blight.  The political environment has created a lot of division in our community, I am sad to say.  We will see what tomorrow brings!

DINNER:  I made a home-made version of pork & beans:  I diced some leftover porkchops (from our Harvest Host farm stay) and sauteed the meat with onions.  To that, I added  BBQ sauce, catsup, hot sauce, and a can of white beans.  It turned out pretty well – much better than the canned version!  Sides were sauteed cabbage and the last of the sauerkraut, also from that Harvest Host farm. 

Quiet (boring) Sunday

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Another gorgeous day.  Sunny.  High 77

We completed our Sunday morning ritual – A yummy breakfast of George’s grits and eggs while watching CBS Sunday Morning.  The egg yolks on these eggs are terrific!  These are the ones we bought at our last Harvest Host farm stay.

I’m afraid the day was quite boring.  I did yet another load of laundry in the clubhouse laundry – so much bedding to wash from the trailer.  Then, I scrubbed Joy’s floor – again.  The water still turns black!  I am on my 3rd go-’round.  Tomorrow, once again – on my hands and knees.

Meanwhile, George re-stained the shed.  It was faded, as you can see – the “before” side on the left and the “after” on the right.

Several RVs pull in every day – northerners (called Winter Texans) returning to their winter houses/RV lots.  Most of us are quarantining when we arrive, so the streets are eerily empty.  The Canadians will not be returning, which is sad. 

DINNER:  A medley of shrimp and veg in a creamy sauce over pasta.  To supplement the shrimp, I added broccoli, marinated artichoke hearts, onions, mushrooms, and green pepper.  Not too shabby.

All of this cleaning is getting tiresome!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Picture perfect.  Sunny.  High 76

We have beautiful sunrises here in south Texas.  A friend took this photo this morning….

Today was spent cleaning Joy, our Airstream, some more.  I swept and mopped the floor.  So dirty!  I will have to get on my hands and knees to do a more thorough wash next week.  Not looking forward to it!  Then, I started scrubbing the cushions.  When we bought this style of Airstream, I was a bit concerned about keeping the light  beige cushions clean.  I still do not regret the light color, as it brightens the trailer, I think.  It just means that I have to scrub them every once in awhile.

While I was busy cleaning, George puttered around doing many odd jobs.  He worked a while on the electrical outlet on the RV pedestel in our driveway.  I was afraid he would electrocute himself!  He used the new chair/knee bench that our daughter gave him…

DINNER:  Fried rice.  I fried lots of veg – onions, peppers, mushrooms, garlic and some leftover pork.  Then added some ginger, cooked rice, sesame oil, and whipped egg.  Topped it off with sprinkles of Furikake – a seaweed seasoning that our daughter gave us from Ireland. 

BOOK:  “Getting Rid of Bradley” by Jennifer Crusie.  Light as a feather, but amusing.  This is another paperback I picked up this summer.  I read it in a day..   3 stars out of 5. 

Clean, then stinky…

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Beautiful again.  Sunny.  High 76

The weather is absolutely perfect.  We sleep with the windows open and love the cool air wafting in.  We don’t need either heat or air-conditioning. 

It is even perfect for cleaning up Joy, our Airstream, after our dusty summer trip.   Today I tackled the shower.  I ran out of 409 cleaning spray so George picked me up a replacement while he was running errands today.  He bought a Mexican brand (it was cheaper) with a very strong, distinct fragrance.  Now, when I smell it in the trailer, I think I am in a resort in the Caribbean or in Mexico!

We bought a nice decorative mirror for our tiny house bathroom.  It makes it look bigger and lighter.  Here is George at work putting it up…..

A neighbor gave me some red quinoa which she discovered she doesn’t like.  I looked online and found a salad to make with it.  It turned out wonderfully – crisp and clean. I am posting the recipe below.  It includes garbanzo beans, lots of parsley, red onion, red bell pepper, and a dressing with olive oil and lots of lemon juice.  It made a LOT!

I go grocery shopping every 10 days or so, when we run out of fresh fruit and vegetables.  I carefully research or create recipes and plan each day’s lunch and dinner menus.  Then, I develop my grocery list from the ingredients needed for the recipes.  One problem……sometimes in unsupervised moments at the supermarket, George makes some unauthorized, impulse purchases.  Such was the case this week.  He bought a whole, fresh mackerel, and sneaked it into the grocery cart.   

About 5:00 this evening, a terrible smell emanated from the kitchen.  George had opened the fish package and was gutting the fish in the sink.  I wouldn’t let him touch anything with his smelly fingers, so fetched him aluminum foil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice.  He wrapped it up and cooked it on the grill.  I like fish, but it shouldn’t smell bad, in my opinion.  I scoured the kitchen after his prep work.  Ugh!

DINNER:  George had the aforementioned grilled fish and the quinoa salad.  I stuck with the quinoa.  Here is the recipe….

Cleaning up Joy

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Beautiful.  Sunny.  High 75

This morning was so nice – not too hot and not too cold, so we sipped our morning java on the driveway.

I have a long list of “to-do”s to clean up Joy, our Airstream.  Driving on gravel roads during our summer road trip certainly got her dusty.  On today’s checklist was cleaning out all cupboards and drawers.  I worked until I ran out of 409 spray!

I am starting to think and dream about next summer’s trip.  If Covid gets under control and if the borders open up, we will join our Nova Scotia friends Tony and Jenny for an “Iceberg” trip along Canada’s Atlantic coast.  We also want to spend a month or more in Michigan. Sometimes planning the trip is almost as fun as the actual trip.

After a hard day’s work, we made margaritas. We used a recipe we came upon today – adding the juice of a mandarin orange. It turned out quite tasty!

DINNER:  George always makes grits for Sunday breakfast.  For some reason, he made gobs too much last Sunday, so I wanted to tackle the leftovers.  I added an egg and a lot of Parmesan to the grits and pressed them in a Pyrex dish.   I topped with more Parmesan, and mozzarella from Mabel (the cow at last week’s Harvest Host stay), then baked.  To serve, I poured some leftover vegan pasta sauce over the grits “cake”.  It really was yummy.  Side was steamed broccoli.

BOOK:  “Whispers” by Belva Plain.  I picked this up during our summer trip at a library book sale for $.10!  It is sort of sappy, telling the tale of a “perfect” family that ends up not being so perfect.  3 stars out of 5. 

Taming the jungle

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

For breakfast, we tried one of the eggs we bought at the Harvest Host farm where we stayed last week.  The colors were all different and lovely….kind of like Easter eggs!  The yolks are very yellow and large.

We did some shopping today…. first to Home Depot to buy paint and gardening materials.  George needs to add some stain to the shed in the faded areas.  We tried to buy sugar snap pea seeds to plant along our back fence, but were told that it is not the season.  I also tried to buy some basil and other herbs, but again it is off-season.  But, I was able to buy some pansies for my Mexican flower pot. 

Another shopping stop was the grocery.  We bought a lot of fruit.  Here I am doing my Carmen Miranda dance.  We are eating more fruit and fewer carbs, especially for breakfast.  One thing we like about the Rio Grande Valley is the fresh and inexpensive fruit and veg.  Today we bought mangos, pineapple, oranges, and grapefruits – all grown locally. 

George finished up the bush trimming.  Here is the “before” photo

And, here is the “tamed”, finished product…

This is the street view of our front garden, that people call a graveyard (similar shape to a cemetery plot)

I put out the pumpkin that I made last year in a community craft event.  Our house is about the only one with a pumpkin instead of a political sign!

DINNER:  Southwestern naan. For the topping, I sauteed onions, garlic, red bell pepper, poblano pepper, and garlic.  I added a ton of Mexican herbs – chili pepper, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, cumin seed, and ground cumin.  Then, I added some leftover grilled chicken pieces, cilantro, and salsa.  I spread this over toasted naan, and warmed it up, melting some Cheddar cheese.  Buenisimo! 

After dinner, since it was nice and cool, George made a fire in our firepit.  Lovely! 

Yo vote’

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Cold!  A cold front came in dropping the temps by about 30 degrees.  I love it!

Since the day was cool, we started tackling some of our overgrown shrubs.  The biggest one is called a Porter Weed.  Here is the “before” photo….

I will post the “after” picture, hopefully tomorrow.

We dithered around the house all morning, waiting for the UPS truck to deliver a case of wine.  We joined nakedwines.com, a wine club.  It works somewhat like a CSA…..we pay $40/month, and then order wine whenever we want..  They support small, struggling wineries around the world, so the wines are unusual.  So far, we are very pleased with the quality.

After that delivery excitement, we went in to town to vote.  I carried a book to read, assuming that there would be a long line.  But – we were the only ones there, in a cavernous gymnasium!   They were extremely organized, and set up for Covid protection.  They issued us a long Q-tip thing that we used to press the buttons for our candidates.  Other than Trump and Biden, all of the candidates’ names were Hispanic.  Good to see how locals are strong community citizens. The Latino influence, on food, language, culture, and friendliness, is what we like about the Rio Grande Valley.

DINNER:  A new recipe I put together, that turned out pretty well. I sauteed some onions, garlic, mushrooms, and shrimp.  I stirred in a small amount of cream cheese, just to give it some creaminess,  a dash of white wine, and a lot of capers to give it a zing.  Side was a salad with avocado, cucumbers, tomatoes, and romaine.  All good! 

Our spring/summer/fall road trip…in a nutshell…….

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

Now settled in for awhile, I wanted to provide an overview of our trip.  The first photo is the first leg – from Mission, Texas to Montana.  When we left here in June, we didn’t know what to expect, Covid-wise.  Some national and state parks were closed, so I reserved 3 stays in RV parks to use as a base.   We then did a lot of day trips.  This part of the trip was mostly pre-planned.

After we left Missoula, MT, we didn’t have a planned route.  We spent quite a bit of time in Wyoming and Colorado, and then headed to Duluth, MN where we spent a week with our daughter in an AirB&B.

After Duluth, we headed south.  The weather started turning, and we wanted to avoid high winds and hail. We did this leg of the trip fairly quickly.

We had a wonderful trip.  Here are some stats…..

Number of weeks:  19

Number of states:  14   (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Missouri, Arkansas

Number of national parks:  5 (Glacier, Badlands, Grand Tetons, Rocky Mountain, Wind Cave)

Number of state parks:  7

Number of National Forest Service parks: 4

Number of Army Corps of Engineers parks: 10

Number of commercial RV parks: 11

Number of times smooched off friends:  3

Number of miles on pick-up truck:  15,000

Number of miles on Joy, our Airstream:  11,000

Number of Harvest Host stays:  27.  Breweries, brewpubs, wineries, distilleries, museums, golf courses, and farms. 

Number of times we almost ran out of gas:  6

Number of divorces (due to being together 24/7):  0  – Happily so!!!

Number of enjoyable breweries and brewpubs: Too many to remember!

Number of yummy dishes cooked over a campfire or gas grill: About 150

Number of great experiences along the way:  Countless!

Work, work, work!

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER: Back to the heat. High 90

We seem to have a lot to do around the house, yard, and trailer. Today I did 4 loads of laundry, and I still am not finished!

We swept and mopped the floor. Since there was construction right behind us this summer, there was a lot of dust!

We live in a community called Retama Village. Check it out at http://www.bentsenpalm.com. There are about 200 houses. It is a gated, 55+ community with a very nice clubhouse, and lots of activities (except for this year with Covid). I like the fact that there are a variety of home styles. There are small coach houses, either 12 x 20 or 12 X 24 that people use as a hobby room, man cave, TV room, guest house, or just as an extra bathroom and laundry.. People buy them as shells and do whatever they want with them. Then, moving up a step are what are called deluxe coach houses, like ours. They are 12 x 40, and come fully finished with kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and dining/living room. This is what it looks like….

Then, moving biggger are casitas. These are about 800 square feet and have one or two bedrooms.

All of these come with a pedestal for RV hook-ups – electricity, water, and sewer. Most people who live in the small coach houses live in their RVs. Those of us in the deluxe coach houses and casitas live in a combination of house and RV.

Next is a new concept called cottages. They are like small homes without the RV set-up. They form a circle and enjoy shared green space.

Even bigger are the port homes. These are about 1200 square feet. They come with a huge, tall garage for parking motor homes underneath. They are probably the most popular.

Finally, are regular houses. These are 1800-3000 square feet. These are mostly for people who used to RV and lived in a smaller house in Retama, and then have decided to stop RVing. Since they like the community, they build a regular house.

There is still a lot of construction going on. When we left for our summer road trip, the lot behind us just had a cement slab. Now, the deluxe coach house is completedly finished and is on the market. It is good to be in a neighborhood with growth.

DINNER: We bought 4 pork chops at the last Harvest Host farm where we stayed. They are HUGE! We also bought some good bacon, thanks to the pigs that they raise. George first grilled the bacon to have on hand…

Then, he grilled the porkchops. I served them with the sauerkraut I had bought at that same farm, and mashed potatoes. We will have a LOT of leftovers!

BOOK: “Unspeakable” by Sandra Brown. Just a paperback I picked up while waiting for my library books to become available. 3 stars out of 5