Enjoying Minnesota friends

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Drizzle and cool; high upper 50s

A former work colleague from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and her husband joined us for lunch. They are visiting here in their RV. It was great seeing them. We took them for a car ride around the area slated for the Wall. George took us down muddy roads next to the Rio Grande. A bit dicey in parts. Lots of Border Patrol pick-up trucks all over the place. This is the little mission church that will be destroyed. It is quite controversial.

The quilting group and I finished up the project. We took a quilt made by my great-grandmother in 1893, and cut out a big piece that is in good condition. The quilters mounted it into a shadow box. Then, my aunt and uncle from Alberta sent me a set of needles, thread and thimble that my great-grandmother used. We attached that to the quilt piece, along with a little explanation I typed up. Then, in another picture frame, I showed photos of the 5 generations that have had the quilt. Two photos – one from the 1920s and one from 1989. My mother and grandmother are in both. Cool!

The afternoon was busy with online exploring flight options for our upcoming housesitting assignments in Seattle, then in Guadalajara, and then back to Texas.

DINNER: A Mexican twist on risotto. Why not? I made traditional risotto with white wine and home-made vegetable broth. At the end, I added bits of leftover chicken and beef fajita meat along with onions and peppers leftover from our taco lunch. I added a bit more cheese at the end. It turned out very well!

Lining up more housesitting assignments

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Cool and overcast. High 60

I ran all over Mission today, mostly shopping for the quilting project I’ve been working on. Hobby Lobby for picture frame and burlap twine, library to type up descriptions to explain the quilt and photos, and to Office Depot for printing everything out. Then, I met with one of the quilting ladies, and we almost finished up the project….photos to follow.

Too cold to swim today, but I got 2 hours of line-dancing practice in. We are having a line-dancing “marathon” on Saturday, where line-dancers from many RV parks all over the Rio Grande Valley come. Unfortunately, the songs and dances that they are playing are not the ones we know, so we have had intense practice sessions the last few weeks to prepare.

Our village has regular street parties where people just bring a drink and a chair, and set up on the designated street. Today’s street was Robin, so we did a “Rockin’ on Robin” street party. Then, we zipped to a restaurant where we had an interview meeting scheduled with homeowners to discuss a potential houesitting assignment in Jocotepec, Mexico (not far from Guadalajara). We had a lovely dinner at Loretto’s, one of our favorite places in the area.

During the course of dinner together, they accepted us. Horray! Now I need to start looking in to flights. We will fly to Seattle in mid-March and do 2 back-to-back assignments there. One of our daughters is coming out to visit us. We will fly from Seattle to Mexico around April 1.

We may fly directly to Guadalajara, or possibly to Puerto Vallarta and take a bus to Jocotepec. It will be fun!

DINNER: George and I shared a platter of Korean street tacos. The other couple had a pork loin, beautifully served with rib bones, and fish tacos. A very nice evening.

Fun on South Padre Island

LOCATION: South Padre Island, Texas
WEATHER: Mostly sunny. High 70

We got an early start and headed to South Padre Island, about 1.5 hours from here. We drove around the island so our Minnesota friends, Dan and Joan, could see both the gulf side as well as the bay side. We stopped at the visitor center to check out one of the island’s famous sand sculptures.

Then, lunch at Dirty Al’s. Really good blackened fish tacos.

I kept everyone on a tight schedule. We zipped over to the dock and went on a 2-hour dolphin boat ride in the bay. We saw lots and lots of dolphins. It was a bit breezy, but still great weather.

As the tour guide, I quickly escorted them from the dock area to the turtle rescue sanctuary. We saw the injured turtles and learned about the different kinds. It is a great place to visit.

Finally, a little rest in the afternoon in our hotel located right on the bay.

After a little nap (George), we had a cocktail at one of the nicer restaurants on the island to watch the sunset. (I had coupons so all of the appetizers were free). 🙂

DINNER: We enjoyed take-out pizza at our favorite Italian restaurant in the area.

An early night, as we have to get up at 3:45 AM to take them to the airport for an early flight back to Minnesota.

Hosting friends from chilly Minnesota

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Sunny. High 72

Our friends Dan and Joan Tomlinson came to visit us from Rochester, Minnesota. Unfortunately, they arrived a day late due to weather. Too bad that their vacation was cut short by one day, but we still had a great time with them.

On our first day, we walked around our Retama Village community, showing them the amenities and types of houses, then had a nice al fresco lunch with neighbors. We ate world-famous tamales from Delia’s.

In the afternoon, we hiked around the state park nearby, doing some bird-watching. In addition to chachalacas, cardinals, green jays, and black birds, we saw these beautifiul altamira orioles.

DINNER: In keeping with the Tex-Mex theme, we ate fajitas and charro beans for dinner. George grilled the fajita meat on the grill and gave the veg a nice char. Then, I sauteed the vegetables, filled up the tortillas, and finished off with chopped cilantro, guacamole and Mexican cheese. Muy bueno!

Border Patrol

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: WINDY! Winds of 55+mph yesterday, from the south – so warm in the 80s. In the night, the wind shifted from the north, still at these high gusts, but now in the 50s!

Since we are so close to the border (less than one mile), there is a lot of border patrol presence here. Their vehicles are everywhere…

And we hear their helicopters 24/7. Sometimes their cars cruise through our neighborhood, and sometimes they are here on foot with their dogs chasing some illegals. Residents of this community LOVE them.

With the government shutdown, they are not getting paid. So, some residents here are seeking donations to give the agents grocery store gift cards. I went up to the clubhouse yesterday, and was puzzled seeing so many of the Border Patrol cars and trucks in the parking lot. Then, I realized that there were here to pick up their cards.

The coordinator told me that they have collected $9000 so far in donations. She said it is really heart-breaking to see grown men cry with gratitude.

I did a 2-hour stint of line-dancing, as we are preparing to dance with a lot of dancers from other communities for some marathon. We were practicing steps that other communities do. I was pooped out afterwards!

We have friends that were scheduled to fly in yesterday evening from Minnesota, but due to weather in the north, their flight was canceled. We hope they make it today!

DINNER: I found a fairly complicated recipe in a Martha Stewart magazine that I gave a try — Pork Wellington. It was a big tenderloin stuffed with mushrooms and spinach, then wrapped up in prosciutto and a phyllo dough crust. Then, drizzled with a creamy Dijon mustard sauce. Quite a bit of work, with so-so results.

Retirement life

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Yo-yo. One day sunny around 80; next day cloudy and high 60

We continue to keep busy here in Mission. Now most of the Winter Texans have arrived for the season – from all over, especially WI, MN, IA, Ontario, and Nebraska. The development continues to grow. There is an entire new section being built of houses called “cottages”. These are for non-RVers. There is a new tiny house going up in front of our house. Three days ago, there was just some dirt on this lot, and today it looks like this…

We went on a realtor open house a few days ago to see some houses that are for re-sale. It is fun to look at what upgrades people have done. Some of the small coach houses (12 X 20) are amazingly roomy. Regular houses and port-homes (the ones with the extremely tall garages for the mobile homes) are also under construction, and there are several for re-sale. Good to see!

I keep busy with line-dancing, water aerobics, and yoga. George bikes some and just did his first boce-ball game…..and won!

I volunteered to help with a community breakfast. Now that the Winter Texans are here, there are a lot of activities going on. We fed 100+ people. Quite a bit of work, but nice to contribute to the activities.

We are still working on the Quebec medical bills. Yesterday, we took a bunch of documents to Staples for printing and copying, seeking reimbursement. Each bill comes separately – from ambulance services (2), hospitals (2), along with various doctors, so there is a lot of paperwork to complete.

Discussion about the Wall is getting uglier in our community (although the locals are mostly against it and are Democrats). I try to ignore the many stupid Facebook posts. A lot of illegals have come through our community recently. All they want is water. This fires up the Trumpies.

I am also busy with future planning. In February, we have a one-week housesitting assignment in Fredricksburg, Texas. I am looking at a camping route for about a week following the assignment – at both state park campgrounds, Army Corps of Enginners campgrounds (assuming the government shutdown ends), and Harvest Host wineries. Then, we have an assignment in Seattle in March for a week. I’m trying to add another week in the Seattle area before the confirmed one, to extend the stay. Our daughter Alexis is joining us there. Then, we have an interview coming up with some Texans who have a second home in an expat community near Guadalajara, Mexico. If that works out, it will be a longer assignment – for most of April and May. Then, we hit the road around Memorial Day for a summer and early fall camping trip. We are hoping to join our Nova Scotia friends along the way. More planning to do for that trip.

DINNER: I found a great recipe for our next get-together with friends – stromboli. Super easy, nice looking, and good. Lay out a roll of pizza dough (like a tin of Pillsbury). Layer on different kinds of thinly cut deli meats and cheeses. Spread on some Dijon mustard. Sprinkle pickled pepper rings on top. Roll up. Brush with an egg wash. Bake and slice up. Great (and it looks like you did a lot of work).

Welcome back, Winter Texans

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Cool and drab. High 50

After doing a yoga class and line dancing class (me), we headed out to the convention center to attend the “Welcome Back, Winter Texans” expo. It was packed with old geezers like us checking out all of the booths and picking up free trinkets.

We now have lots of reusable grocery bags and pens!

After about an hour fighting the mob, we left looking for a good place for lunch. We stumbled upon a hole-in-the-wall Mexican place, strangely named Robert. It is the kind of place we love. The first thing the waitress said was: “Hablan ustedes espanol?”. It is so liberating to be able to go to these places, and feel comfortable with Spanish.

We ordered a platter of sopes – a kind of fatter taco topped with meat. I was unfamiliar with the name of the topping, but figured out that it means “shredded”. Not real clear on what type of meat was shredded. We also got one taco with “barbacoa a la mexicana” topping. Lots of food for $8.00.

Back home, I attended a meeting to prepare for a community breakfast this Saturday, where I will be volunteering my services. We have a lot of events like this.

DINNER: Since the weather was not cooperating with outdoor grilling, I seered a tuna steak, keeping the middle rare, and drizzled a soy/ginger sauce over it. Side was soba noodles with Asian vegetables. We even pulled out a bottle of sake and sipped some hot sake with our meal. Oishikatta,, as they say in Japanese!

Trump visits our town

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Overcast. High 70

The big news today is that Trump came to town. He flew in to our local airport, McAllen, about 5 miles from our house.

He was here, of courses, to talk about the WALL. It is scheduled to go within a mile or so of our house. So sad – will destroy a national butterfly center and bird center, as well as a cute original Spanish mission church. (The fiesty priest is fighting it). Our mayor is against the wall, and he had hoped to have a chance to speak with Trump, but I don’t think that happened. I saw on TV an interview with the Brownsville mayor (Brownsville being a major commercial border crossing). He is also against the wall, and was not invited to some sort of forum with the President.

Our community is divided on this issue. We have an unspoken agreement not to talk politics. Some of our community attended a protest along the street where he paraded. Some of us are concerned about how it might affect the value and vitality of our community. Some think that a wall would attract more residents, as they would feel more safe; others feel that it would be an ugly, huge distraction. We will see.

For now, McAllen is ranked one of the safest cities in the US. We have a strong border control presence. The only thing I have heard is that the illegals coming through our community are poor, bedraggled people begging for a drink of water and/or something to eat.

I went to water aerobics class, but no one showed up. I guess 69 degrees is too cool for these wimps!;-)

Other than the Trump excitement, we drove over to Harlingen airport to pick up our neighbor. We were afraid traffic would be backed up due to Trump’s visit, but it was fine.

When we returned, we had a cook-out get-together with our neighors. It was nice enough to sit outside. They have a nice pergola and fire pit.

Feeling virtuous…..

LOCATION: In tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER: Mostly sunny. High 70

What a busy day! I like to keep occupied, and didn’t have any trouble today. Here was my day….

Chair Yoga class 8:30 – 9:30
Community meeting 9:30 – 10:30
Line Dancing class 10:30 – 11:30
Rush home to make George’s lunch
Water aerobics classes 12:00 – 2:00
Internet work 2:00 – 3:00
Book club meeting/discussion 3:00 – 4:30
Happy hour tasting some wine that we bought through a NPR wine club.

I was feeling a little smug about my amount of exercise until I overheard two ladies at the yoga class saying that they walk 10 miles each and every day….on top of all these classes! Now I feel like a sloth….

On days that I’m not so busy, I read a lot and plan future trips. George pitched in and did the dishes….

DINNER: A new recipe that I won’t do again in the future – fairly complicated, and not all that good. It involved baking and mashing a butternut squash, adding the mash to a homemade spaghetti sauce which included baby kale, then stuffing it into big pasta shells, and finally drizzling with a cream sauce and goat cheese. It sounds better than it tasted.

Evening was topped with a Skype call with one of our daughters….nice

Keeping busy in Mission

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Very nice. High mid-70s

We took our neighbor to Harlingen, about an hour from here, to catch a flight from the airport there. That is something nice about Retama Village, where we live…..people are always willing to help others.

After dropping her off, we drove into the historic downtown and drove around a bit. Harlingen has seen better days. We stumbled upon a great Mexican restaurant. The parking lot was full, and there was a line waiting for tables – all locals, like police, teachers, neighbors. There was a sign saying that it is one of the top 50 best Mexican restaurants in the US. I had read that their flautas are good, so I ordered a platter.

We thought it would be enough food to share, but we didn’t want to appear too cheap, so we ordered a soup, thinking that it would be something small. NOT…….

It was called caldo de res – beef soup. It came full of vegetables, then a huge pile of unidentifiable beef to add as you eat. So much food!

While in Harlingen, we found a nursery and bought a new shrub for our front area. It is a plant that is supposed to attract butterflies. I couldn’t find any basil to replace my former plant (that died while we were in Asheville), but I did plant some seeds.

DINNER: I tried a new recipe – cauliflower Caesar salad. Similar to a regular Caesar salad, but with roasted cauliflower instead of lettuce.