Hard to keep up!

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER: Sunny and summer-like. High 83

The last 3 days have been packed with activities! On Monday, the weather wasn’t great and there were not any water aerobics classes (people have become quite wimpy and no one shows up if it is less than 75 degrees). So we went shopping at a garden shop to buy some plants to hide our ugly electric box in the backyard. We bought oleander bushes as they are supposed to grow quickly.

Tuesday, however, was a beautiful day. I did 2 hours of line dancing classes followed by 2 hours of water aerobics. Then, I rushed home to dress for the monthly book club meeting. We always have great discussions. What an interesting group of people! At this month’s meeting, we discussed a book about Auschwitz and one of the members showed a presentation of photos from his visit there last year. Quite depressing, but informative. From there, we zoomed over to a street party. Each month, residents bring their lawn chairs and drinks and hang out on one of the streets in our community. All of the streets are named after birds, as this is such a famous location for bird migration. We live on Mallard, and this month’s street party was “Mingling on Mallard”. Last month’s was “Hanging on Hummingbird”. Another month’s was “Partying on Pelican”, etc.

Wednesday was another full day. This time, 2 hours of yoga, then 2 hours of water aeorbics. George had the pick-up, so all this exercise was topped off by a .5 mile walk to/from the clubhouse. I was pooped! After all that exercise, we needed to do some internet work (file our taxes), but the clubhouse wifi was down. So, we drove to the Mission library to do that. Since we were out, we stopped by our favorite restaurant and did their “Wine Wednesday” deal, with half-priced bottles of wine. The temperature was perfect and the breeze kept all mosquitos away on their lovely patio. We shared a spinach/artichoke/musrhoom dip as an appetizer. Lovely!!!

DINNER: Scallops in a cream sauce over pasta. People think scallops are such a luxury, but a $8 bag of frozen bay scallops gives us 8 servings (4 meals @ two people each). I sauteed the scallops with some onion and garlic, then added some cream cheese and a little milk to make the cream sauce. I added some artichoke hearts and capers, and served over fettucine. Very gourmet without the gourmet price tag!

Busy Day.. Rummage Sale, Mail Call, and Dancing

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER: Pleasant, but overcast. Everyone is anxious for some sun

We got up early to set up for the neighborhood garage sale. Our community gates open at 7:00, and we had been warned to be ready for the early-birds, even though the sale didn’t start until 8:00 AM. We have been steadfastedly trying not to accumulate “stuff”, but somehow we seem to have our fair share. Not having tables, we had to improvise as we arranged our wares. We tied a rope between the pick-up and the palm tree to hang the clothes for sale. We opened up the truck’s tailgate on which to place some items. Boards between chairs became tables. Then, most innovative, we tied a big piece of plywood on top of the trash can for more items. Sure enough, right at 7:00, we had our first customer. Since it is an entire neighborhood event, and since it has a reputation of being a good annual sale, we were told to expect a lot of customers. The clientele were an interestiing group. First were the serious, almost professional Mexicans. (I had my signage in 2 languages.). Several had Minnesota license plates. They told me that they work in the summers there. Others had Mexico license plates. All quite interesting. Some couldn’t speak any English. For one family, the son interpreted for the parents. They were surprised when I spoke to them in Spanish. Then, there were Winter Texans from RV parks, just using garage sales as their Saturday entertainment. Finally, the Retama Village neighbors, mostly just lookers, strolled around. We ended up making $185, but one of the bills someone gave us is a suspicious-looking $100 one. We are just hoping it is legit. When it was over, everyone took their leftovers to the clubhouse where someone hauled it away to Goodwill. (Full disclosure — as I was placing our unsold junk in the Goodwill pile, my eye caught two items that looked really good to me — an American Tourister piece of luggage and a set of nesting, plastic containers. I surreptitiously placed them in the pick-up, not wanting to look like a scavenger!)

It was warm enough to swim, so I dashed to the 1:00 class, after we cleaned up after the garage sale. It was nice to get some exercise again.

Then, just like Christmas, we received this month’s mail. We use Dakota Post, in Sioux Falls, SD. We use the PO box there as our primary address. Each month, we instruct them where to send the mail, whether it is here, or to a campground when we are traveling, or to a house where we are housesitting. This month’s package included a lot of tax info, so George can finish up income tax preparation. Sadly, there were 3 more bills from the Quebec hospitalization. They had been sent directly to our insurance company, which totally just ignored them, not even bothering to return them with instructions. The hospital finally sent a letter to us asking us to pay.. So, we will have to deal with 3 more, just when I was thinking that all of the paperwork had already been submitted.

Then……dance time! Many of the RV parks here in the Vallley have large dance floors, and offer dances every weekend, some even during the week. Forty of us from our community bought tickets and sat together. The band, called The Cruisers, did mostly 50s and 60s songs. They were really quite good. The wooden dance floor is huge – like a roller skating rink. The dance floor was full for every song with people of all ages, sizes, shapes, and state of physical fitness. Some were almost professional.

DINNER: I made a soup in the afternoon, so we could have an easy, early dinner before the dance. It was a version of chicken/vegetable/noodle soup, only made with hog head pieces. The smokiness of the hog head nicely permeated the soup, but the texture of the meat was unpleasant – either fatty or impossibly chewy. George liked it, though.

Eating the pig head

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Cool (50s) and overcast

We spent the morning preparing for this Saturday’s neighborhood rummage sale (can’t say garage sale as most of us don’t have garages!) We hope to sell a lot of junk!

Several people have asked us how we are eating the meat from the hog head that George smoked a few weeks ago. We froze most of the meat, and are pulling bits of it from the freezer for various meals. I made a head-meat taco the other day, which turned out well. Then, yesterday, we drove past an authentic Mexican restaurant advertising “sopa de cabeza” (head soup) so I will give that a try soon. We made pate’ out of the tongue and will try that with crackers.

We are still remembering our recent Harvest Host camping trips. This was taken on the back patio of the Texas Legato winery. Compliments to the owner for the nice fire in the firepit.

One of our friends called us saying that they had tickets to tonight’s performance of “Babes of Broadway” that they couldn’t use. Would we be interested in them? Sure thing! It was a lovely performance in the surprisingly beautiful McAllen Performing Arts Center.

DINNER: Not hog head tonight. I made an Indian-style curried chicken dinner with cauliflower. All with a yogurt/cucumber sauce.

Back home…

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER: Cold in AM, warmer as we drove south

We awoke to freezing temperatures. It was hard to believe that it got so cold overnight, as it was a sunny 90 during the day. I had left my herbs out, and now am afraid that they might have frozen.

The weather forecast changed, to be overcast and cool (50s) in the Hill Country, today, so we decided to head south. We drove about 400 miles, through San Antonio (not pleasant). It is one of the fastest growing cities in the US, and we were on the most congested highway going straight through it.

As a contrast, once we left the city, we traveled on desolate roads. We saw a bar aptly named “Bar in the Middle of Nowhere”. We stopped in a good, authentic Texas BBQ joint for lunch.

We made it home by 6:00, and started unloading the Airstream. We may take it for another short trip in March, before we go to Seattle and Mexico. We had wanted to go to a nice Army Corps of Engineers park near San Antonio, but it was booked up. Since holiday weekends cause full campgrounds, I’m going to start working on Memorial Day Weekend reservations. We will be on our way to Ohio for the Airstream rally called Aluminapalooza.

DINNER: Using some of the leftover rotisserie chicken, I made an Asiann chick/veg stir-fry and served it over Japanese udon noodles.

Super Duper Harvest Host Site

LOCATION: Camping at the Texas Legato Winery in Lampasas, Texas
WEATHER: Cool in AM, then hot! 89 high; Sunny

It got quite cold during the night, but we stayed toasty in the Airstream. We spent the morning in the MesinaHof Winery parking lot reading and enjoying coffee.

Then, we were off to our next Harvest Host destination. I had completely forgotten that Monday is Presidents’ Day so that is one reason the state parks and other campgrounds are full this weekend. We drove about 30 miles to Marble Falls, population of about 4000, but with 3 brewpubs. We selected this one and had a nice gyro lunch, an IPA, and a stout on nitro. We walked around the town. It seems quite prosperous.

Then another 30 miles or so to Lampasas. The winery is 3 miles out of town, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The owner came out to greet us as we pulled up and told us where to park. They offered us water and electricity hook-ups, but we don’t need them. The winery is a typical Texas building, with a porch circling the entire house. We sat on the porch next to the waterfall, reading and waiting until it was a good time to taste wine. (Didn’t want to start too early!)

Have herbs will travel…….I brought my pots of baby basil, dill, oregano, and parsley, as I thought they would need watering and sun while we were away. At the Fredericksburg housesitting assignment, I left them in the backyard except for cold nights. Today I placed them on the pick-up to get some sun.

At a decent hour, we went in to the winery for our tasting. All of the wines we tasted were quite good. Usually, we drink red wines, but since today is hot (89), we bought a bottle of white. We sat inside in the air-conditioning and chatted with the owner’s wife. They comped our $10 tasting since we are with Harvest Hosts, and gave us some gourmet blueberry wine-filled chocolates to try. (We will give them to someone who likes that kind of thing).

The owner invited us to sit in the back patio area, with an outdoor kitchen, big screen TV, and fire pit. We watched the Friday evening PBS news shows. By this time, it had cooled down a lot. The owner built us a fire in the fire pit. I brought our dinner out and we sat in front of the fire to eat. Really, really nice.

DINNER: Leftover lasagne.

The owners told us about another Harvest Host winery nearby, that isn’t on the HH website. I called to reserve a place for tomorrow, although we don’t know if we will stay there for sure, or return home.

Finishing up Fredericksburg Housesitting Assignment

LOCATION: MesinaHof Winery, a Harvest Host site outside of Fredericksburg, TX
WEATHER: Beautiful. Sunny. High75

The owners are returning today, so today is the big tidying-up day. I walked Baxter, the beagle. He has a lot of “friends” on his walking route who give him dog treats. He knows which houses to stop at. It is impossible to budge him if he decides to wait for a treat in front of one of those houses. He hunkers down with his 50-pound body until he decides to move on. I met one couple who like to give him a treat.

We took off for an outing to Kerrville, another nice town, about 25 miles from here. We had camped here a few years ago, but not too much looked familiar. We found a really cute coffee shop/brewery for lunch. The Pint and Plow is an old house converted to a cozy coffee shop. You meander through it to a newer addition which houses the kitchen and brewery. Cool vibes. We shared a pulled pork sandwich.

We heard from the homeowners that their flight was canceled, and that they would be returning in the evening, rather than in the afternoon. They told us to go ahead with our travel plans, and to just leave the dogs for a few hours. They have a doggie door, so that is convenient. So, we hooked up the Airstream and left at about 5:00.

Our destination was MesinaHof, a winery that is part of the Harvest Host network. We stayed here once before. They have a huge parking lot, so it is easy to set up. We quickly parked, and ducked into the winery for a glass of wine. Since it is Valentine’s Day, they were closing early for a special dinner/dance event. We sat out on the patio with our glass of wine, and chatted with a young couple, also camped here for the night.. Usually, with Harvest Hosts, we are the only RVers parked. Tonight, there are 4 other vehicles.

DINNER: Rotisserie chicken and salad. I will be more creative tomorrow night.

It is so cozy being back in the Airstream. We just love the feel. We read books, made some phone calls, and talked about our next adventures. Life is great!

A switch from wineries to a brewery!

LOCATION: Housesitting in Fredricksburg, Texas

WEATHER: Very nice. Sunny. High 70

We spent time in the morning, cuddling the dogs and doing computer stuff. I tried to reserve some campgrounds for this weekend, but everything seems full. I guess others read the weekend weather forecast and decided to camp out. I was able to get two nights at Harvest Host wineries when we leave here. For info about Harvest Hosts, check out https://harvesthosts.com/ (discount offer at https://harvesthosts.referralcandy.com ). After that, we will either find an RV park or campground, or just go on back to Mission.

For lunch, we went to the Alstadt Brewery. Keeping with Fredericksburg’s heritage, it was built to look like a German castle, and they brew only German beers.

We went on a tour. The tour guide sipped on a lager during the (free) tour – a good sign! The brewery is huge, with a restaurant, beer hall, cellar, meeting rooms, and suites. Obviously a lot of money has been poured into this enterprise. We asked the tour guide about the owners. They are a local family that got into publishing, which led to owning/managing TV channels like HGTV.

Afterwards, we ate lunch in their beer hall. On weekends, they have music and really fill up. We shared a bowl of gumbo that someone had recommended. Not German, but mighty tasty.

Then, to a tasting room in downtown Fredericksburg. Similar to Walla Walla in Washington, the downtown main street is lined with tasting rooms. We tried an Italian one recommended by our homeowners – Andrucci. The wines are all Tuscan. The wine pourer had just come over from Italy and spoke cute, broken English. It was very nice.

Back home, we did more computer stuff. I booked flights for our return from Guadalajara, Mexico.

DINNER: White turkey chili. I made an extra batch to leave for the homeowners for their return tomorrow.

Exploring the Texas Hill Country

LOCATION: Housesitting in Fredericksburg, Texas

WEATHER: Beautiful! The sun came out! High about 70

We spent a quiet morning at the house: George worked on income taxes, and I cuddled the dogs. Then, off to explore the area.

First up was lunch. We stopped in Boerne at a cute brewpub. The weather was so nice that we sat in the outdoor patio. The brewpub overlooks a river. There are ducks all around the river and the road in front. I guess that is how it got its name – Dodging Duck Brewery….

Check it out at http://www.dodgingduck.com.

The geography for this part of Texas is quite different. There are lots of rolling hills and buildings are constructed with local sandstone. In the spring, it is famous for its bluebonnets and other wild flowers. We read that many years ago, Lady Bird Johnson (former president LBJ’s wife) had a passion for beautifying Texas roads. She gave all the policemen bags of wildflower seeds and instructed them to throw out seeds onto the sides of the roads whenever they pulled someone over. Cute story!

We took the backroads home toward Fredericksburg. We stopped in Sisterdale for a wine tasting. The winery there is the only thing in the town. It is located in an old cotton gin building. Check out the website for photos – http://www.sistercreekvineyards.com

From there, we drove a few miles to Luckenbach, population 3. The only thing there is a large venue for outdoor concerts. Fun place!

Back home, we enjoyed the last of the day’s sunshine, in the backyard with the dogs.

DINNER: Lasagne. I made way too much, so I see leftovers in our future.

Enjoying Fredericksburg

LOCATION: Housesitting in Fredericksburg, Texas

WEATHER: Still cool (50s) and overcast

We visitied the extremely well-done National Museum of the Pacific- www.pacificwarmuseum.org – in downtown Fredericksburg. Nimitz, who was born here, is featured. He was the Chief Naval Officer during WWII. Very impressive.

Our homeowners had recommended the Fredericksburg Herb Farm, and we decided to check it out for a late lunch. What a cute place! It is a collection of cabins, a spa, gardens, garden shop, bistro, and restaurant. The cabins were built from the German tradition of “Sunday Houses” whereby farmers would have a small cabin in town where they could spend a few days occasionally, and stay there overnight when they came in to town for church. We had a lovely meal – we shared a cup of French onion soup and a mufaletta sandwich. A bottle of local wine, of course, too! Check out photos on their website http://www.fredericksburgherbfarm.com

In the afternoon, we played with the dogs. George worked on income taxes while I did some computer work, looking at places to camp when we finish our assignment here.

DINNER: Fish tacos. I had bought a package of frozen tuna steaks. It seems extravagant, but the package ws $6.00. Two nice steaks. We split one steak, so $1.50 each! I added some grilled onion, jalapenos, cheese, salsa, tomatoes, and cilantro.

Pleasant Sunday in Wine Country

LOCATION: Housesitting in Fredericksburg, Texas

WEATHER: Cool (50s) and overcast

We enjoyed a slow, cozy Sunday morning by plowing through the homeowner’s NY Times and local papers, as well as by sharing the couch with the doggies as we watched CBS Sunday Morning.

We spent some time maneuvering the Airstream. I told George that I had to get something out of the refrigerator inside. He thought I had already finished, but I was still standing in the Airstream when I felt a jolt, and off we went! It really is a weird feeling sitting in the trailer as it travels. There was nothing I could do except sit there and hold on. He went around the block a few times, trying to get the Airstream positioned just right. He got it set up in front of the homeowner’s house. It is not a busy street, so should be fine there.

Then, after dog walks, cuddles, and feedings, we headed out for the afternoon. We did a little grocery shopping then tried out one of the many winery tasting rooms in the area. We went to one that is a bit off the beaten tourist path, recommended by the homeowners.

We met a group of Texans who were out sampling wines from several wineries in the area. They welcomed us to join their conversation around a cozy fire.

Back home, we played with the dogs and watched HGTV (not wanting to watch the Grammy’s).

DINNER: George grilled hamburgers and I used the meat to make a sauce for baked potatoes – with sour cream, dijon, mushrooms, and the burger. Yummy and hearty on a cool evening.