A day trip along the Mississippi

LOCATION: Rochester, MN

WEATHER: Winter-y! Highs in the 20s (Now 4!)

The Wine, Wit, and Wisdom event at the library went well last night. We gave two 45-minute presentations to an audience of about 30 each. People seemed quite engaged and asked a lot of questions

With nothing on our slate today, we decided on a trip to the Mississippi River, about 40 miles away. We drove by lots of cow pastures and cornfields buried under snow

Our first stop was in Reads Landing at a brewpub for lunch.

Along the river, we saw eagles soaring among the trees, swooping down occasionally for fish in any open water they could find.

Then, across the river to Nelson, Wisconsin. In the Mississippi River tributaries, we watched fisherman out on the ice doing ice-fishing in their tiny ice houses

Then, we stopped at the Nelson Creamery, one of my favorite winter-weather destinations. The front of the store is retail, selling cheeses from Wisconsin and from all of the world, and ice cream cones. The back of the store is a delightfully cozy wine bistro.

We (daughter Alexis, George and I) ordered a bottle of wine and a cheese platter and luxuriated in front of the fire.

Back to Rochester, we settled in with our friend Pat with whom we will be staying for the rest of our stay in Rochester.

Minnesota in the winter?

LOCATION: Rochester, MN

WEATHER: Lots of snow on the ground. Warmish (for MN) – 40

Thanks to Cathy and Roger Freikert for the ride to the Harlingen Airport where we caught the Sun Country direct flight to Minneapolis. Flight was half-full and we left 20 minutes early as everyone was checked in early. This is the way to fly! After a night at a hotel near the airport, we picked up our rental car and drove an hour south to Rochester.

We lived in Rochester for 13 years, before retiring and becoming full-time RVers. Best place we ever lived. We’ll be here 2 weeks, then fly to Loreto in Baja California, Mexico via Calgary (more of that story to come).

Rochester got hit with a snowstorm a few days ago, and they are still shoveling out….

I have a few appointments scheduled at the Mayo Clinic, where we used to work. They are so efficient! The buildings are all connected by underground tunnels and skyways, making coats optional. We’ll pick up winter coats at our daughter’s house later today.

Being a tourist in South Texas

LOCATION: Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Nice. High mid 70s

After a huevos rancheros homemade breakfast, we took our friend Heather over to South Padre Island, about 1.5 hours from here. First stop was lunch at a bay front restaurant.

We had delicious “caldo de mariscos” — a hearty seafood stew. Then, over the bridge to the island. Heather got her toes wet in the ocean and we drove around the island. We stopped for this photo of one of the many sand castles that dot the island.

Then, to the Sea Turtle Rescue Center. They are busy now, providing temporary kiddie-pool shelters to turtles that have been stunned by the recent cold weather/water.

On our way home, we stopped in the Mexico border town to buy some margarita glasses for our friends in Nova Scotia. We will deliver the glasses to them when we meet up with them this summer in News Brunswick. Of course, we will need to christen them with a good margarita!

Back home, we wanted to watch the Vikings game, but we don’t get the channel that the game was on. So, we got out our binoculars and checked the score periodically on the neighbors’ outdoor TV! Funny!

Introducing our friend to South Texas

LOCATION: Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Much warmer. Beautiful. High mid 70s

Our friend Heather is visiting us from Michigan/Minnesota. She is spending a month in Austin, and came down to see us for a long weekend.

We walked around our Retama Village neighborhood, then did a line-dancing class. Fun! Some of the residents of our community were having a gun swap meet in the courtyard…..

We took Heather to a real “dive” BBQ place and split a half rack of delicious babyback BBQ ribs. Heather and George couldn’t resist splitting a piece of grapefruit pie for dessert.

Back at home, we saw this beautiful green jay in the trees in our backyard.. Then, we went to the state park bird sanctuary next door and saw some more…

Then, we went to Vaqueros (Cowboy in Spanish) bar. It is an outdoor pavilion selling Bud Light mostly with a very loud band. Quite a cultural experience. (And, thank goodness they let you BYOB so we didn’t have to consume Buds)

What a cowboy!

The Reids are going to Rochester!

We will be going to Rochester next week. We have been invited to speak at the library’s fundraiser “Wine, Wit and Wisdom”. We will be there for about two weeks.

While we are there, we hope to see many of you faithful blog readers. We are going to have two “drop-ins”. Hope you can stop by at one of them….

Thursday, February 1 starting at 4:30 at the Tap Room upstairs in downtown Rochester

Friday, February 2 starting at 4:30 at Whistle Binkies North

Life in South Texas

LOCATION: Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Unpleasantly and unusually cold. Highs about 40

Today is supposed to be the last day of the cool/cold weather we are experiencing. Maybe back to 80 this weekend.

Meanwhile, to keep busy, we are busy organizing our spring/summer housesitting trip to Europe and then our summer/fall camping trip in the Airstream along the eastern USA coast up to NE Canada. We hope that we will get to Labrador, which is on our bucket list.

We are about 1 mile from the Mexican border. It is usually very tropical here. The main crops are sugar cane and citrus. They just harvested a field of sugar cane, burning the extra stalks.

In the late afternoon, just to get out of the house, we went to a Mexican restaurant that advertised $1 margaritas. They gave us a huge, complimentary, platter of tortilla chips and good salsas. We felt a bit embarrassed about not spending much money there, so we bought dinner to go…..baby goat! Here it is cooking on the spit….

It was quite an experience – the “to go” bag was filled with tortillas, salsas, the goat, bean soup, rice and more tortilla chips. It was pretty tasty, and a bit strange, with small goat bones in the goat stew. It was the kind of place that we like to frequent – no one speaking much English, attentive waiters, and tables full of Mexican families.

Wine, Wit and Wisdom

LOCATION: Mission, Texas in our tiny house

WEATHER: Cold for this part of Texas. Highs 30s-40s. Sleet

Today was a good day to stay in. We spent time planning our upcoming trips. We also worked on the presentation that we will be making soon at the Rochester, Minnesota Public Library’s annual fundraiser called Wine, Wit and Wisdom.

We will be speaking about how we live life on the road, on a shoestring budget. This is the blurb about our presentation….

As you can see, another speaker is this RN from Somalia. It promises to be an interesting evening, and a great event for the library.

As an outing today, we went to Michael’s to buy a picture frame. On one wall in our tiny house, we have photos from various housesitting assignments through http://www.trustedhousesitters.com. Today we framed a newspaper article that I had written last year for the Rochester, Minnesota newspaper.

Then, we did a little clothes shopping so we will have something a bit dressy to wear for our presentations.

Is it margarita time yet?

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Windy but nice – 70ish

Since we are so close to the Mexican border (less than 1 mile), there is a huge Mexican influence here. Tons of Mexican restaurants, some touristy, and some really authentic ones where everyone only speaks Spanish. Needless to say, a lot of margaritas are served.

The last time we were in Mexico (at a border town), our friends Tony and Jenny bought us some really nice glasses for margaritas. The color choices are endless….

I previously was not a big fan of margaritas. The ones in bars are generally made with a mix that I find artificially sweet. However, I’ve found a recipe and make them from scratch and now really like them – could be dangerous! The recipe is so easy….

1 jigger of tequila. Best with a medium-priced tequila. Avoid the cheapest ones.

1 jigger of triple sec

1 jigger of lime juice

1 jigger of lemon juice

Salt the rims (optional), add all these jiggers, then plenty of ice. Serve with slices of lime. Some people add a pinch of sugar, but I prefer the sour taste. I’ve also heard that you can substitute orange juice for lemon juice for a taste twist.

Salud! For cold-weather readers…..save this for a nice hot summer day!

Fun Saturday in Retama Village

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Very nice. High about 70. Sunny

Living here in Retama Village is a “sweet spot”. The people are all very friendly. You can do as much or as little as you would like. I started out today with 2 classes of line dancing. I am at the bottom two levels of beginners! It is a fun workout, though.

Then, I joined the photography club’s meeting to look at one resident’s photos of the North Shore (Minnesota). My ipad photos cannot compare with the quality of some of these guys’ photos.

After lunch, I attended a meeting of “Instant Pot” owners. This is the newest kitchen appliance craze. It is a combo of pressure cooker, crockpot, rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, sauté pan, and MORE! I’m trying to decide whether to buy one or not. With such limited space in both the house an the Airstream, I have to consider it thoughtfully.

In addition to owning our tiny house, we own the land it is on (which is different from many RV communities). It came landscaped with butterfly-friendly shrubs. I had noticed some caterpillars munching happily away on one of the plants. Not wanting to be branded a butterfly-murderer in this butterfly-friendly community, I posted my question on our community facebook page about what to do with them. Shortly after the post, one of the gardening/butterfly “pros” stopped by to check out our situation. In a nutshell…..we will let the caterpillars continue their feast and the bush will come back unharmed.

After doing a little yard work, we relaxed with a homemade margarita on the driveway. I’ve found my own recipe and it is so much better than the commercial mix.

In the evening, we went to another RV community where they have a big hall with weekly dances. What a hoot! The band is called “Rewind” and they played all oldies classics. What fun it was to dance the night away.

Relaxing in Retama

LOCATION: Retama Village in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Windy. Highs in 70s

We are settling back into our “tiny house”. Retama Village is a community primarily for RVers. There are some non-RV sites, but several of the lots have small houses or carriages with driveways for the residents’ RVs. This is our Airstream next to the house.

Our house is 12 X 40, which is really more house than we need. Small kitchen/dining/living area plus bathroom with a walk-in shower, and bedroom. What more could one want?

Almost all the “winter Texans” are here now, and almost every lot seems to be occupied. There are some big rigs.

We have some new neighbors with a retro motor home.

In the afternoon I did my daily water aerobics class, which I really like.

We are making friends and are joining a few groups.