The British are so polite!

LOCATION: Housesitting in Meonstoke, Hampshire, England

WEATHER: Partly sunny. High 50

I just love the British manners. Of course, their accent makes Brits seem posh, even saying mundane things.

This morning, while I was walking Buttons, our housesitting charge, another dog approached us and started barking uncontrollably. In the US, the dog owner would probably angrily shout “Shut Up” or “Bad Dog”. This owner simply softly purred “Silly Dog” and sure enough, the dog quieted.

This sign was on our pathway…. (Polite Notice….)

Then, today while driving around a confusing round-about, we got off on the wrong exit, going the wrong day!!!! Instead of honking or yelling at us, the drivers calmly stopped and let us do a u-turn. Lovely!

Buttons and I checked out the backyard, on the hunt for bones and toys to play with. Their house is right on the River Meon..

This is the view from the backyard across the river…

We drove to Portsmouth, about 20 miles due south from here. I read that it used to be a rough seaport city, but is now a popular tourist spot.

We walked around the historic docks section, then spotted this 1600s pub for lunch…

We got away from the tourist section and strolled the old section’s streets. We checked out this seafood market that had lots of interesting seafood – including whelks.

I was glad to get home. The traffic always makes me nervous. George is a very good driver – especially considering he is driving on the left with the steering wheel on the right, plus a manual stick shift he has to maneuver with his left hand. Wow!

DINNER: Whenever we housesit, I like to make some dish for the homeowners to eat upon their return. I always think that they are probably tired from traveling and don’t want to go shopping. So, tonight I made a white chili soup for them, knowing that it will improve after a day or so. We had it tonight with chips and salsa that George made from the garden’s green tomatoes. We liked it, and I hope the owners like it when they eat it.

BOOK: Just finished “Belgravia” by Julian Fellowes – author of “Downton Abbey”. Similar English drama. 4 stars out of 5

Country living….British style

LOCATION: Housesitting in Meonstoke, Hampshire, England

WEATHER: Partly sunny. High 50

Life is good here in Meonstoke. It is very quiet. I try to imagine who lives in these beautiful old houses. I think some are retirees, but there are also a lot of young families, as I see play things in the yards. Our homeowner drives to Winchester, about 30 minutes away, to catch the train to London for work each day. I think others do this, too. Makes for a long day, but the quality of life here is excellent.

Our house was built in the 1700s, the homeowner told us. It was two buildings, one an inn, that someone merged together years ago. It has beautiful old exposed beams, and a lot of quirky features from an old house. However, it has all the modern conveniences you could hope for. The owners recently updated the kitchen…

The backyard is beautiful, and all fenced in so Buttons can run around…

There are nice flower beds, and raised vegetable gardens. Today, we picked some lettuce and spinach for our salads.

We tried sitting out here with a pint one afernoon, but it is just too chilly…

Today our destination was pub in another village about a mile from here. It is quite popular, as it is known for its good food. We had tried driving here a few days ago, but the car park was full, so today we walked.

The pub is right along the River Meon which also flows next to our backyard.

The pub is called “The Shoe”.

Inside, it is quite cozy, with a fire roaring in the fireplace. The pub makes its own bread,, so the smell hits you (quite pleasantly) as you enter.

We split a shrimp sandwich, made with their homemade bread of the day, and a cup of celeriac soup. Very nice.

The walk home was on a country lane..

DINNER: Pasta with leftover bread from lunch. I had bought a tube of tomato paste (why don’t they sell these in the USA?) to go in to the curry the other night, so used more of the tomato for tonight’s dinner, along with tomatoes from the garden. Side was fresh-picked lettuce and spinach.

Hampshire life

LOCATION: Housesitting in Meonstoke, Hampshire, England

WEATHER: Sunny and crisp (50) in the AM; overcast in PM

I took Buttons (our charge this week) for a walk around the village to take photos while the sun was out. Here she is waiting patiently for someone to let her back in the house….

I love the architecture of the houses in the village.

There are no street addresses. Our house is called Mill Cottage. Other names are Malthouse, Old Vicarage, Apple Tree Cottage, Old Village Store. So quaint! All of the houses are very well-kept and the hedges are immaculate. I especially love the thatched roof houses. This is a barn in the middle of town. The village uses it as a meeting/party place. It is where the Christmas season kicks off soon.

Besides houses, the village contains a pub (of course) and an old church. Here is the view of the pub as I walked down High Street.

The church looks very old. The gravestones appeared ancient. Most of the words on the gravestones were illegible. One that was more modern looking had a date of 1850, so the older ones must be from the 1700s or before…

Today’s destination was Winchester. Although only about 10 miles away, the GPS said it would take about 30 minutes to get there. The country roads are narrow and slow. (Alright by me!) As we drove down one country lane, we had to stop to let a bunch of pheasants meander by. It is pheasant season. Our homeowner warned us that we cannot let Buttons run off-leash as she goes mad chasing them..

Winchester is famous for its cathedral, which we visited. It is one of the oldest (1070-ish) and largest in England.

Our tour guide was a prim and delightful 80-year-old very British lady who was informative and fun.

We even got to check out the crypt which is partly flooded. The church was built on a marsh.

Jane Austen lived in a nearby village in Hampshire and was buried in Winchester Cathedral. Her coffin is under this stone…

Winchester itself is a neat town. We stopped at this pub for lunch..

British pub food has certainly come a long way. We shared an order of sausage and mash, presented beautifully….

With the USD strong, and the British pound low, our lunch was 11 pounds, about $12.50 US. (Of course, you have to add the beer to the cost of the meal!) 🙂

This is another pub we saw in Winchester – from the 1400s…

This is a great time of year to visit, as there aren’t many other tourists.

We switched from Daylight Savings Time last weekend, so we rushed home to arrive before sunset (about 4:45).

DINNER: With the leftover chicken roast, I made a rich chicken soup with potatoes, carrots, celery, and mushrooms. We had some nice brown bread on the side.

More BBC telly – tonight we watched one of old favorites – “All Creatures Great and Small”

Cheers to another fine day!

A Smashing Autumn Day!

LOCATION: Housesitting in Meonstoke, Hampshire, England

WEATHER: Crisp and sunny. High 50

We awoke to a cool morning….condensation on the windows and views of smoke floating out of neighbors’ chimneys. Love it!

Buttons and I walked around the yard taking pictures of the house in the sunlight…

The backyard has a bocce ball court…

Buttons is the best behaved dog! She has been taught to sit at the front door until a human gets a towel for her. Then, she enters the house, stands on the towel, and waits for a human to dry off her muddy paws. Amazing!

Once inside, she loves to play a game we call “Chase Buttons with the Chew Toy”. She can do this for hours!

We took Buttons on a long walk on a trail that used to be a railway line. Others had the same idea as we did – perfect day for being outside. There were other dog-walkers, hikers, bikers, and lots of people riding horses. So English!

There are footpaths everywhere here. I think this area is a popular place for Londoners to come on a weekend to hike and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

We didn’t go to a pub today. Being Sunday, many of the nearby pubs serve “Sunday Roast”. It is a more formal set-up and quite popular for people from out-of-town to come visit. Many of these pubs announce that they have won contests for best roast. So, we will have a pint at home instead!

In the evening, we lit a fire in the fireplace and relaxed……with a pint.

DINNER: Curried lentils over couscous. My brother sent me the recipe, and I tried it for the first time. Really tasty, easy, and inexpensive. If you want the recipe, send me an email at

BBC after dinner – with my favorite show of all time — “Call the Midwife”. We are finally over jetlag, so can sleep regular hours now.

BOOK: I finished a really good one – “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens. 5 stars out of 5. It is a story of a girl growing up alone in the North Carolina marshlands.

Smashing day!

Another day, another pub

LOCATION: Housesitting in Meonstoke, Hampshire, England

WEATHER: More rain, a bit heavier today. High 55

Buttons and I cuddled on the couch in front of the fire, with me finishing up a good book. George watched the rugby games on the telly – quite the craze here. It is the world finals.

The Royal Mail truck delivered post to the front door, which got Buttons and me both excited….

After lunch, we ventured to another village, this one about 4 miles away. It is a little bigger with more shops and pubs. We shopped first at the green grocer, buying some nice veg. Then to the Co-op where we stocked up for the week, and finally to the butcher shop to buy a chicken. To recuperate from our shopping, we stopped at one of the pubs in that village.

There was a nice fire going in the fireplace.

Note the rugby game schedule on the blackboard above the fire.

I was glad I had taken Buttons for a nice walk in the morning, as the afternoon rain became rather unpleasant.

DINNER: A real feast. I roasted a whole chicken with lots of veg – potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, onion, leeks, and garlic. At the end of cooking, I added sugar snap peas which were still nice and crunchy upon serving. We will have a lot of leftover chicken to make other recipes all week long.

BOOK: I finished “Queen of Hearts” by Jacqueline Winspear. It is a part of a very light series I enjoy occassionally – about a British royal who gets herself in trouble all of the time. 4 stars out of 5.

Quaint Hampshire

LOCATION: Housesitting in Meonstoke, Hampshire, England

WEATHER: Light rain most of the day. High 55

We had a quiet morning…..I luxuriated on the couch reading a good book with Butttons, our dog, curled up next to me. She and I were both excited when a group of horses rode by. This is the view from our window….

She has a favorite chew toy that she likes to play with, and she likes us to toss it around the room for her to fetch.

Later, we drove about 1.5 to the next village to another great pub- the Bakers Arms.

There was a fire blazing in the fireplace, creating a very cosy atmosphere.

This pub has received awards for its food, especially for its Sunday roasts. Since it was quite busy, we shared a platter of homemade bread and olives while we waited for our lunch. We shared a fillet of Hampshire trout.

The sun came out a bit in the afternoon, so Buttons and I went on an exploratory hike around the village. It is very quiet. This is school mid-term break, so I think a lot of families are on vacation.

The homeowner picked the last of her veg before she left. George made some green tomato salsa with some of the tomatoes. Quite tasty! We will leave some for the homeowners.

DINNER: Pasta with pesto. I sauteed a patty-pan squash from their garden, along with onions, garlic, tomatoes, chorizo, and olives (the ones leftover from lunch). I stirred in a liittle pesto and served it all over linguini.

Evening – another nice round of BBC old comedies.

Our latest housesitting adventure

LOCATION: Meonstoke, England – 30 miles from Southampton

WEATHER: A bit dreary. Light rain. High 55

We slept on and off at the B&B in Southampton – our bodies are still 6 hours behind. We awoke to the smell of breakfast cooking, so quickly joined the other guests in the B&B’s dining room. We had the “full English breakfast” – sausage, Canadian bacon, egg, toast, pork & beans, grilled tomato, and mushrooms. Much more than I could eat…

We walked down to the docks and saw several cruise ships getting ready to depart – also observed tourists lugging their huge suitcases to and from ships. We found our car rental agency and picked up our car. When we got ready to leave, I almost got in on the wrong side – forgetting about the driver’s seat being on the right.

Thank goodness for GPS on the phone. Getting out of Southampton was a nightmare. George is really a good driver. The car is a 5-speed manual. So, he drives with the steering wheel on the right, and shifts gears with his left hand. I could never do this in a million years! We had to negotiate about 20 round-abouts, missing some of the turn-offs, thus adding to our twists and turns. The car motor is noisy so George couldn’t hear the GPS lady. So, I had to yell out the directions, plus yell to remind him to stay on the left. Then, we made it to the main highway where cars and lorries (semis) were zooming to and from London. It was terrifying! Thank goodness we only had about 15 miles on the highway, then turned onto a peaceful country road. The road was covered with a canopy of trees, now turning colors with the autumn weather.

We found our little village of Meonstoke. It is darling. All of the houses have names, instead of addresses. We searched for our house – Mill Cottage on High Street, and easily found it. Then, we found the pub – of course!

We had a lovely lunch – I had the broccoli/Stilton cheese soup and George ordered the pot pie of the day – minced beef and mushrooms. Huge portions! We told the waitress that she would probably see a lot of us this upcoming week.

We met up with our homeowner – Pippa (what a cute name!). She oriented us to the house and we met our charge Buttons. She is a sweetie….

Pippa left to pick up her children, and to meet up with her husband at Heathrow to fly to Dubai for the week’s holiday.

Buttons showed us around the yard and garden. In addition to the pub, the village has a small convenience store which is chock-full of goodies. We did a little grocery shopping for dinner and breakfast tomorrow.

DINNER: Pippa had kindly left us some homemade vegetable soup. Yum.

I am in heaven with old BBC shows on the telly…. .”Fresh Fields, Are you Being Served? Keeping Up Appearances, and Last of the Summer Wine” Years ago, we watched “Last of the Summer Wine” on US public TV which came on at 9:30 on Saturday nights. Our ritual was to watch the slow-moving show on the couch, at which point we promptly fell asleep.. This almost happened to us tonight, too. We got very sleepy watching the show, then let Buttons out to do her business, then fell into a comfy bed. This promises to be a lovely week ahead…..

We made it across the pond!

LOCATION: Southampton, England
WEATHER: Cloudy. 50s

It was a long trip – 9 hours direct from Austin, Texas to London Gatwick. Norwegian Airlines, in addition to being inexpensive, is very modern. You order drinks and food on the computer in front of your seat, paying with credit card. Then, the steward brings you your order. No more carts going up and down the aisles; no more fiddling with a credit card by the flight attendant. Very efficient.

We landed in London in a typical pea-soup fog. Public transportation is so good here. The train station is inside the airport. We bought our tickets for Southampton, a 2-hour train trip, for $20 each. The train route took us through lush countryside. We saw a lot of sheep and cows graising, and a few pheasants in the fields.

Southampton is the largest city in the area, and is where our cruise will be departing from in a week (the same port as the Titantic!) We found our B&B, an older house that has been converted to a B&B with about 15 rooms. Our room, unfortunately, was on the top (3rd) floor and it was exhausting hauling up our heavy suitcase all the way up! We rested a bit as I hadn’t slept at all the plane, and we were suffering from the 6-hour time zone difference.

Then – off to check out some pubs in our neighborhood.

George chatted up some of the other customers, as usual. Then, a stroll down the street to another pub that looked cute.

It was quite cozy, so we had an early dinner there in addition to our beer.

DINNER: We shared their evening special – gyro-styled chicken, chips (French Fries), and a salad. The food plus the beers was a total of 15 pounds – the quivalent of about $20 USD. The British pound is low, so the US dollar goes further.

Early to bed, after a bit of BBC on the telly, to try to catch up on our sleep.

Reids in the Sky Again!

LOCATION: Austin (Texas) Airport
WEATHER: Nice and cool until about noon. High 85

We enjoyed our last Texas margarita last night, sipping as we did our final packing-up. Our community is a “Lock and Leave” – meaning that all we have to do is lock the house, and have no worries while we are away. We went to the city water department today to put our water/sewer/garbage on “vacation mode” while we are away, so the price will be half of our normal rate – about $35/month. We have automatic sprinklers and everything is safe in this gated community. We have a mail-forwarding service which will send our mail to our daughter while we are away. So, we can be away without any worries. Our last dinner was an omelette – always a great way to finish up every bit of leftovers.

Then, the alarm got us up at 6:30 this morning, and we were off by 7:00. We rented a car for $86 to Austin, including the drop-off fee. So much better than trying to fly there (would have been an all-day proposition) and much less expensive. After about 5 hours, we arrived at the Austin Airport. Beers and pad thai tacos at the ready for a late lunch at an airport eatery.

We are EXTREMELY happy and relieved that there are no issues with our flight on Norwegian Airlines. The fare is $149 each for a direct flight from Austin to London Gatwick. We had heard rumors that Norwegian might go bankrupt, but no sign of this here.

Our flight is 9 hours. We will buy a sandwich at the airport to eat on the plane. I made pickled eggs which we will have for breakfast as we arrive in London at 7:30 AM tomorrow.

To my blog reader who inquired about Mexican meds we bought in Progreso, Mexico this weekend— The Mexican meds are only available for meds that are already generic. (For example – my husband’s Eliquis is not an option). We show them the container – e.g, Atenelol, and they sell it to us. Trustworthy? We think so, although we only use this as a back-up. Just as a precaution, when we have to use them, we alternate a US pill with a Mexican pill each day.

We hope that you will read our blog as we travel to England and then to southern Africa. I will try to write daily.

Cheers! Cheerio!

Eating bugs and tacos; drinking margaritas and cervesas in Mexico

LOCATION: Our tiny house in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Hot (93) and really humid

Today’s destination was Progreso, Mexico. Although we live less than a mile from the border, we need to drive about 20 miles to an entry point with a town – Progreso – that offers amenities.

Most people, as we did, park and walk across the border. It costs $1 to enter Mexico (and upon departure, costs 30 cents to re-enter USA).

After walking across the Rio Grande bridge, all your senses are assaulted. First you see signs, mostly in English, advertising available drugs in pharmacies, dentists, eye doctors, beauty shops, etc.

Progreso has one primary street. The street is covered with a canopy and shops, offices, and stalls line the pathway. Vendors stand in front of their shops shouting in broken English….”Hey lady, we sell drugs almost free!” Or ….”Hey, lady, the dentist is here today…..wanna crown for $100?” etc. Many of the shops have music blasting from speakers, enticing people to enter. The smells are interesting, too – candied almonds roasting, tacos cooking, and smelly car engines. We LOVE it!

Our first stop along the walkway was to buy a margarita. It is interesting that most of the walk-up bars are part of pharmacies. I guess it makes sense!

Now fortified, our next stop was a pharmacy. We like to go to one that is called “Similares” – meaning knock-offs. Since we will be gone for more than 3 months, George needed to supplement one of his prescriptions. All you do is take in the bottle of the US prescription, and they sell you the generic drug. No prescription necessary!

Progreso is very touristy. Many gringos in the Rio Grande Valley go there for dental work, eye glasses, and curio shopping. A lot of English is spoken, and USD is the favored currency. This changes as you walk farther down the street, away from the border.

We walked beyond the main touristy area and found this guy selling tacos and baked potatoes.

No English here. No gringos here, either. I ordered a plate of fajita-style tacos. He carved the meat off the spit.

We asked for a beer, and the stall owner called a shop nearby. A guy came over and sold us beers for $1.50. Very tasty taco and Indio beer!

On our way back to the US border, we did a little pottery shopping. George bought a belt from a young mother with a leather stall. I watched her baby while she showed George the belts. After haggling a bit, he bought one for $11.

We couldn’t resist buying some fried grasshoppers for a snack (they are in the bucket)….

Our final stop was at Pancho’s, a popular bar/restaurant near the border. We sat at the bar, on saddle bar stools and watched the bartenders do their work. This drink is a concoction of liquors, then topped with upside-down beers.

Back home, I did laundry, and more laundry, to get us ready for our trip. George watched football, snacking on his cricket purchase…..

DINNER: The cupboards and refrigerator are almost bare. Tonight, I finished up all the frozen seafood – shrimp and scallops, sauteed with peppers and onions. I topped it with a can of smoked oysters, which gave it an interesting twist. Served over the last of the rice.