When the weather is dreary…..

LOCATION:  In our new casita in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Not too nice.  Overcast, some rain; High 45

Overnight temps hovered just above freezing, so we think most of our plants made it ok.  The tomato plants and the flower pots got to sleep inside…

We returned to the Driver’s License Bureau to get updated licenses.  The roads were eerily empty.  We realized that schools are closed, probably because most do not have furnaces. 

I spent some time booking more summer campsites.  I heard back from one for the 4th of July weekend, saying they were already full.  In panic mode, I searched for another campground.  Just as I was finishing the online booking, a message popped up and said someone else had just that moment grabbed the site.  I finally found one, less desirable, but it will be ok.  Meanwhile, George booked a ferry ride for us to cross Lake Michigan.  It is a little spendy, but it means that we can avoid Chicago and Detroit traffic. 

We took some drinks and snacks up to the clubbhouse and played a few rounds of pool with friends.  A nice way to spend a dreary few hours.

DINNER:  Pan-Fried Ginger Noodles- keeping up this week’s theme of meatless dishes

1 cup diced scallions
3 T soy sauce
1 T ginger, minced
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
6 oz soba
2 T peanut oil (I substituted more sesame oil)
5 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1/2 cup thawed peas or edamame
1-2 tsp hot sauce
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup cilantro diced
2 T sesame seeds

Combine scallions, soy sauce, ginger, vinegar, sesame oil, and salt.

Meanwhile, cook noodles half the time that is stated on the noodle package.  Drain.  While still hot in the colander, toss with the sesame oil.  Spread out noodles to keep them from sticking together.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the peanut oil for 20 seconds.  Add garlic untnil crisp.  Add half of the scallion mix.  Cook 1 minute

Raise heat to high and add noodles.  Fry 30 seconds.  Add peas, hot sauce and remaining scallion mix.  Stir-fry 1-2 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in lime juice. 

Garnish with cilantro and sesame seeds. 
You could make this non-vegan by adding some type of meat or chicken. 

Define: “Severe Winter Weather”

LOCATION:  In our new casita in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Blustery.  Overcast.  High 55

A cold front came in during the night. Since we are sleeping in Joy (that brings up some sexy connotations, doesn’t it???), we hear outdoor sounds more.  I heard the wind howling.  Concerned that my flowerpots sitting on our outdoor kitchen bar would blow over, I ran outside with just a t-shirt on to lower them to the driveway.  That was about 1:00 AM, and was the high temperature for the day!

The thermometer kept dropping all day.  We covered the plants as it is supposed to be colder tonight.  I worked on our summer camping trip some more, scheduling some nights near Big Bend National Park to kick off the summer. 

Starting to get cabin fever, we decided to go out for lunch.  We went to a place called Greens and Lemons which specializes in healthy, “clean” food.  With memories of Hawaii, we shared a poke bowl.  It was quite good, and to top it off, the wait staff only spoke Spanish, so I got to practice mine.  (They complimented me a lot)…  🙂

In the afternoon, we traipsed over to the Driver’s License office to get licenses with our new address, only to find out that appointments are required. 

The realtor showed our house again today…..nada

The weather forecast here is “Severe Winter Weather” starting tonight.  Golly, it will only get up to 45 tomorrow, and tonight will get close to 35. 

Meanwhile, our daughter in Minnesota sent me a screenshot of their weather forecast, also with warnings.  Their “Severe Winter Weather” predicts a low of -35 tonight and warns people that being outside for more than 10 minutes could be fatal. 

I guess it is a matter of perspective? 

DINNER:  Tonight’s meal was a mish-mash that turned out pretty well.  I sauteed some onions, bell peppers, and garlic.  Then added some cooked rotisserie chicken.  I seasoned with oregano, salt, and pepper.  Then, I added some steamed, previously frozen, mixed vegetables.  To finish it off, I added a bit of cream cheese.  I served this over leftover grits to which I added parmesan.  My freezer is so  big that things get lost.  This was a good way to clear it out a bit. 

Retirement is anything but slow!

LOCATION:  In our new casita in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Summer-like.  Sunny.  High 85

Today everyone was outside enjoying the weather as a cold front is on its way, and we wanted to take advantage of a great day.

So, first up was pickle-ball.  I am still rusty from  not having played for a year.  I was one of the first to get to the courts this morning, and the only other players that had arrived were men.  So, I played a game with 3 guys.  I tried to hold my own! 

I left pickle-ball early to run to yoga class.  We have a great yoga teacher who comes to our village once a week.  I  loaded up my bicycle with my yoga gear plus my swimming stuff so that I could do water aerobics immediately following the yoga class. 

Whew!  What a busy morning!  I returned home about 1:00, and then relaxed.  In the late afternoon, we biked over to the RV park that is owned by the same owners as Retama Village.  They were having margaritas and karaoke at their clubhouse.  It was kind of fun. 

This Google map appeared in my email today – a timeline showing where we traveled in 2021.  Sure hope the 2022 map will show Europe, too!

DINNER:  Plant-based (Impossible brand) hamburgers on the grill.  We turned them from vegan to vegetarian by adding a dollop of blue cheese on top.  Who can resist?  Side was a medley of sauteed red bell pepper, mushrooms, green bell pepper, onions and garlic. 

Line- dancing fever!

LOCATION:  In our new casita in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Very nice, but windy.  High 75

I taught Basic Beginners line dancing class this morning.  I lost a few and gained a few pupils since the first class.  They did much better today!

Then, a water aerobics class.  It has been getting quite cool at night (upper 30s), and the pool’s water heater just cannot keep up.  The water was miserably cold!  My hardy fellow Rochesterite and I did it, though! 

A bunch of us line dancers (from the more advanced class) headed to a line dancing “marathon” in the afternoon.  About 100 line dancers from RV parks in the Rio Grande Valley attended.  We danced for 2 hours!  Some of the dancers were quite good.  Our Retama Village group knew about 2/3rds of the dances.  It was a fun afternoon, and provided great exercise!

George accomplished another project today – fixing some leaks and adding some lines in the irrigation system.  The previous owner planted a lot of nice plants, so we have “instant landscaping”.  Nice!

DINNER:  This week’s meatless dish.  It is vegetarian, but could easily convert to vegan….

Roasted Cauliflower with Pumpkin Seeds

2 cup vegetable stock
2 # head of cauliflower
olive oil
2/3 cup panko (bread crumbs)
1/2 cup minced parsley
3 T pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup Parmesan  – optional (could omit to make vegan or use vegan Parmesan)
1/4 soy Bacon Bits (optional)
1 T horseradish

Bring stock to boil.  Trim cauliflower and cut into “steaks” .  Hint – make steaks fairly stick so they are less likely to fall apart.  Lower into boiling stock.  Decrease to simmer, partially cover, and simmer 15 minutes.

While cauliflower cooks, heat 3 T of the olive oil.  Add panko and cook until golden.  Add minced parsley, pumpkin seeds, horseradish, salt, and pepper.  Add optional bacon bits and parmesan.  Set aside. 

In a food processor or blender, blend half of the cauliflower (using any steaks that have fallen apart) and half of the stock until smooth.

Warm a bit of olive oil into a frying pan.  Fry the other half of the cauliflower steaks until golden. 

Divide the puree onto 2 plates.  Slip cauliflower steaks on top.  Season with panko mix and serve.

This was an unusual, but very tasty, meal. 

Baa Baa, Black Sheep?

LOCATION:  In our new casita in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Fairly cool.  Sunny.  High 73

I returned to pickle-ball this morning – 2 hours worth.  Even though I am very rusty after not playing for a year, the group graciously welcomed me back and gave me some tutorials.  We played until the wind kicked up too much.

I spent the afternoon planning our fall trips.  Many of you have asked me where our next journeys will take us.  So far, we have planned to go to North Carolina in March.  Then, we will take off for the summer RV trip in mid-April.  We will have to scoot back by the end of August in order to fly to Barcelona the first week of September.  From Barcelona we will take a train to southern France where we will explore the Canal du Midi for 2 weeks with 3 other couples.  From there, we head to Amsterdam where we will go on a 8-day Rhine River cruise in early October.  I wanted to extend our stay in Europe, so looked at available house-sitting  assignments in October.  I applied to one in rural England (near the Wales border) and was accepted!  We will be adding duck and sheep care to our housesitting experience resume’.  🙂  Here are our charges while we are there…

We were invited over to our friends’ house for margaritas, guacamole, and queso.  It was lovely to sit outside in their courtyard to chat. 

DINNER:  Green chili stew.  This is something that I have only seen in the Rio Grande Valley.  It comes in a jar and you add things to jazz it up.  I added sauteed chicken, onion, and corn.  It was pretty tasty. 

In the evening, the Retama Village “welcome lady” stopped by with a key lime pie for us  (even though we are not technically new, we are in a new house).  She makes really good pies! 

Enjoying a nice Sunday in our new digs

LOCATION:  In our casita in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Quite nice.  Sunny.  High 74

We had our traditional Sunday morning grits, bacon, and eggs for breakfast while watching “CBS Sunday Morning” on our new TV.  What luxury!

George finished another project – fixing up a nice desk in our bedroom.  It is really pretty, and will be a good spot for computer work.

I corresponded with our daughter to plan a get-together in North Carolina this spring, and a trip for her to come here to see our new house. 

Then, off to Home Depot……again!!! 

Our new casita is in a great location.  On one side of us is the community green space, meaning no one will ever build there.  On the other side are our Airstream friends, Joe and Jinny.  Joe was so helpful organizing our deliveries while we were gone.  That is the great thing about this neighborhood.  So, now Joy is parked next to a fellow Flying Cloud Airstream.  Almost twins!

We invited former neighbors over for Bloody Mary Sunday.  The weather was great so we sat outside in the screened in patio.

DINNER:  French Onion and Blue Cheese Tart

2 tablespoons butter
2 large sprigs of lemon thyme
1 clove of garlic, grated
5 onions, thinly sliced (you will need about 2 pounds 2 oz/1kg)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 sheet of pre-rolled puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten
5¼ oz  blue cheese
A small handful of chopped fresh chives, to serve

INSTRUCTIONS

Start by cooking the onions. They need to be cooked slowly on low heat, so it’s best to begin with those.

Melt the butter in a large nonstick frying pan–we have a load of onions to cook. When the butter has melted, pick off the thyme leaves and add, then add the garlic and onions. Mix everything together.

Now add the pepper, salt, and sugar and mix. Cook on medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very soft. 

While that cooks, start on the pastry. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with some parchment paper or use the paper the pastry comes in and roll out the pastry onto the sheet.
Using a knife, score a smaller rectangle ½ inch/1cm inside the pastry rectangle, making sure not to cut all the way through. Pierce the inner rectangle with a fork all over to allow the steam to escape when it bakes.

Brush the edges with the egg and bake for 20 minutes, until golden all over.

Take out and, using the back of a spoon, push down all the puffed-up pastry of the inner rectangle, creating a nice neat border.  Take the blue cheese and crumble all over the inner rectangle of the pastry. Add the onions and scatter them all over till you have an even layer. Now bake for 15 minutes.

Take out and let cool for 10 minutes before eating, sprinkled with the chives.  This was quite tasty and pretty fancy-looking for a party. 

BOOK:  “Children of the Revolution” by Peter Robinson.  I am working my way through this series about a detective in the North Yorkshire Dales.  How appropriate as we watched “All Creatures Great and Small” after dinner.  4 stars out of 5. 

Coach house for sale

As I have written, we live in a gated, 55+ community with swimming pools, clubhouse, pickleball court, and lots of friendly people and activities. The weather here in the winter is terrific….this week the highs will be in the 80s.

We have lived here for about 4 years, a few months each year, when we are not traveling with our Airstream Joy or doing housesitting somewhere in the world.

Last month we moved from our “deluxe coach house” to a slightly bigger “casita”.

If you know of someone who might be interested in buying our deluxe coach house with full RV hook-ups, please let me know. This is the realtor’s listing….

https://matrix.gmar.org/matrix/shared/Dflvs3Kvyq/3702MallardDrive

Here are some more photos…

Chili cook-off on a chilly day

LOCATION:  In our new casita in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Super windy!  High 65

We had 2 good line-dancing classes this morning, preparing for a dance marathon next week at another RV resort. 

Today was all about chili.  I took my crock-pot full of white chicken chili to the clubhouse to enter the contest.

There were 14 entries.  All (except mine) were traditional tomato-based, some with veggies, some with sirloin, others with hamburger, and the traditional bean-less.  Mine was the only white one.  The last time we did this, I won 2nd place with the recipe.  Others beat me out this year.  Boo-hoo!  In the photo below, mine was Entry #2.  I decorated it with tequila bottles, hoping that would give me an edge…..:-) 

Some friends came over afterwards to look at our new house.  We were too full to serve them any appetizers.  I froze  quite a few leftovers, so I see white chicken chili in dinner menus to come.

DINNER:  Just a salad with George’s home-grown tomatoes. 

Here is the white chicken chili recipe….

White Chicken Chili

Note – I took this from an online recipe, then modified it to our taste.  The recipe yields 4-5 servings, but is easy to double, triple, or even quadruple (which I did for the cook-off)

INGREDIENTS

2 15-oz can of white beans or 1/2 pound of dry white beans
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion diced
1/2 green bell pepper diced
1/2 poblano pepper diced
2 cloves garlic minced – divided
1/2 jalapeno minced (more or less to taste
4-oz can chopped green chilies – don’t drain
2 teaspoons oregano – divided
4 teaspoons cumin – divided
2 teasponns chili powder – divided
1 teaspoon cayenne
1-2 bay leaves
garlic salt
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced in small cubes.  (I used rotisserie chicken this time)
3 cups chicken stock
1 beer (optional)
Hot sauce to taste
4 oz cream cheese
4 oz heavy cream
1 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 bunch cilantro finely diced

DIRECTIONS

If using dry beans, soak them overnight.  Drain, cover with hot water and a bay leaf and garlic salt.  Bring to boil, then simmer about 2 hours.  Drain.  If using canned beans, just drain the beans.  Set aside.

Saute onions, green pepper, and poblano pepper until soft.  Add garlic, canned green chiles, and half of the cumin, chili powder, oregano, and cayenne, and cook additional minute.  Set aside

In a big pot, brown chicken in olive oil and finish off with the rest of the cumin, cayenne, oregano, and chili powder.  Add chicken broth (and beer, if desired). Add the onion mix.   Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the cooked, drained beans and cook 15 more minutes. 

Add heavy cream, cream cheese, and some of the Monterey Jack cheese.  Cook until  cheese is melted.  Salt,  pepper, and hot sauce to taste.  (At this point, I put it in the crock pot to keep warm until serving.  Not necessary if serving right away).

Serve with shredded cheese and cilantro. 




Christmas in January?

LOCATION:  In our casita in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Very nice.  Hiigh 74

Today was like Christmas!  First we unwrapped and set up our little table that goes between our 2 recliners.  It is a perfect size and color.  We are happy with it.  (Always a bit concerned about what things bought online will look like!)

Our friend Rob stopped by (thankfully) and helped George set up the stackable washer/dryer.  I gave it a test drive, and it works great.  I am now really spoiled!

While all of this was going on, another big package arrived – our 80 inch long TV table.  Rob and George lugged it into the house and set it up.  We still need to hide the TV wires, but think it looks great.  I am anxious to put up our pictures around the TV. 

During all of this activity, I was busy preparing chili that I am entering in a chili cook-off tomorrow.  I have to make enough for about 100 people for sampling.  It took all day to chop the vegetables and to cook it.  It turned out a bit spicier than I had planned…..might turn people off.   I won second prize the last time our community did this.  Stay tuned for tomorrow’s results!

DINNER:  By dinner time, I was tired of cooking, so put together a quick supper  – rice with Indian vegetables (a packet purchased at Trader Joe’s). 

We enjoyed watching PBS on our big TV relaxing in our lounge chairs with our nice little table between us.  Aaaahhhh! 

Back to Mission, Texas

LOCATION:  Back in our casita in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Beautiful.  High 80

We left our friends Dan and Joan in Canyon Lake, where the weather was supposed to be perfect for them today.  They are busy checking the weather as it looks like they might have to face a blizzard on their way back to Minnesota tomorrow.

We stopped in San Antonio to go to Trader Joe’s – the closest one to us (5 hours away!!).  I stocked up on things only available in a Trader Joe’s, including 2-buck Chuck.  🙂 

The drive was pretty boring after San Antonio  – just miles and miles of desolate ranch land.  We stopped at a BBQ/Mexican place for lunch.  We shared a HUGE smoked turkey leg with pinto beans.

Mission is in the Rio Grande Valley as far south as you can get in Texas

We also stopped at our local HEB grocery store when we arrived in Mission.  I will be entering my world-famous white chili recipe and needed to buy all the ingredients.  It was interesting to see empty shelves, similar to what it was like when Covid first hit.  I guess it is a supply/distribution issue.

Back home, we unboxed deliveries that had arrived when we were gone – a stackable washer/dryer and a little coffee table.  It is like Christmas!

DINNER:  Grilled red snapper.  George used our gas grill that is now set up and hooked up in our outdoor kitchen.  I warmed up some farro and added it to sauteed onions and mushrooms.  I served the fish in a bed of the farro mix.  Very tasty