New truck!

LOCATION: Our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER: Back to sun. High 68

The weather fluctuates a lot here. It was 85 earlier this week, then we had a freeze warning last night. I brought in my planters of basil and mint to make sure that they continue doing quite well.

No swimming today, but tomorrow should be up in the 70s again.

We bought a new truck! George had been talking about replacing our Dodge Ram, and he went to the dealership just to “look”. A few hours later….. we now have a 2020 Chevy Silverado. My only request was that it be silver – to match the Airstream.

After picking up the truck, we went to a seafood restaurant for a lunch celebration. Cajun and Mexican seafood. Reallly good!

DINNER: I made up a recipe that turned out pretty well. I had some turkey burger that I sauteed with onion, garlic, and jalapeno. To that I added a bit of tomato paste and lots of dried oregano, and some of my fresh basil. I stirred in some cooked orzo, then topped with kalamata olives and feta crumbles. Side was a salad of sliced cucumbers in Greek yogurt with a bit of turmeric and cumin stirred in.

Mardi Gras Parade with a Border Patrol Escort

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Retama Village in Mission, Texas
WEATHER: Beautiful. Sunny. High 85

Today was a busy, fun day. I faithfully did my chair yoga and water aerobics, then got ready to party!

We celebrated Mardi Gras with a golf cart parade followed by gumbo at the clubhouse patio. Only in South Texas…..what a hoot!……Border Patrol guys led the parade, honking their horns and blowing their sirens as we cruised through the neighborhood. So much fun!

We rode in our neighbors’ golf cart which they had decorated with feathers, balloons, and beads.

We dressed up and even wore masks.

About 20 golf carts drove around the neighborhood….and we threw out beads and candy. People sat in lawnchairs in their front yards and cheered us.

At the end of the parade, we enjoyed different kinds of gumbo that residents had made. Here is our friend Jim who made a batch with crab and sausage…

Then, we zipped away with some friends to a private gambling club that had invited us to use their TV lounge to watch the debate. Our friends are big Mayor Pete supporters. It was an interesting experience.

Absorbing Tex-Mex culture!

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

We did weekly grocery shopping at our local store – HEB. Unlike most states with a variety of options, Texas really only has this grocery chain. It is always crowded, especially on weekends. George stocked up on beer, so the refrigerator is now super full. As usual, the fresh veg is great and inexpensive. Our jalapeno cost 7 cents!

Our friends invited us over for a spur-of-the-moment happy hour to discuss our travel plans at the end of September – when we fly to Barcelona, then train to southern France to start our boat trip on the Canal du Midi. We are trying to coordinate flights and hotels. Fun!

Busy evening….from there, we met up with some other neighbors to go to a Conjunto Dance at a Tejano dance hall. What fun!

We were the only gringo Winter Texans there, and the only people not wearing cowboy boots and hats! Most people were speaking Spanish, and the band spoke a mix of Spanish/English as they were introducing songs. It is called La Lomita Park – look it up on Facebook. The music was great. The dance floor was full for every song – with dancers of all ages, shapes, and sizes.One guy was a super dancer, dancing every dance quite well. For one dance, we watched him ask his partner to sit down, and then he went to a lady in a wheelchair to collect her for the dance. He swung her around and around, and they circled the floor like the other dancers. She was just delighted. It made my heart sing!It was the owner Pepe’s 80th birthday, and he sang a lot of songs with the band…..DINNER: The dance hall was a BYOB kind of place, and we had a few of the beers George bought today. We ate hamburgers and nachos from their food stand – not very healthy!

BOOK: “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee. A story about several generations of poor Koreans living in Japan in the early 20th century. 4 stars out of 5. We enjoyed it as it brought back memories of living in Japan, including playing pachinko!

Making millions in a garage sale…..NOT!

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Retama Village in Mission, Texas
WEATHER: Cloudy. High 60

The weather is not always great here, although it is better than most places now in the USA. Yesterday was quite drizzly and bleak, with high of 55. Today is sunnier, although still cool. Tomorrow the sun is supposed to reappear with highs back again in the 80s

We started the day by participating in the annual neighborhood garage sale. It has a good reputation and quite a lot of people, both Winter Texans in other parks, as well as locals flock here. It is fun to speak Spanish to some of the Mexican customers.

How do you lose money in a garage sale? Well, we did. We didn’t have that much to sell – mostly piddly stuff. After 5 hours by our table in the driveway, we sold $10 worth of junk. However, George went around to other houses and bought $12 worth! So, we didn’t even break even. He pointed out that it was stuff we needed – extension cord and a Shop-Vac. Hmmmm. I went around the neighborhood right as people were packing up and picked up a set of dishes – free!

Since there weren’t any exercise classes today, I took a 5-mile walk. The route passes the National Butterfly Center and an area near where we think the wall will be built.

For happy hour, George drank his namesake – an Arrogant Bastard Ale. Just kidding. It is a very good IPA.

He made a fire in the firepit and we enjoyed the nice evening. Lots of interesting sounds – we could hear Border Patrol’s airboat on the Rio Grande, not far from here, and someone at the the veterans’ cemetary played Taps at sundown.

DINNER – A very tasty lentil and sausage stew – easy to make, and quite economical. I got the recipe from a Nick Stellino TV show one time. Here is the recipe – This made more than enough for 2 servings. Easy to double….

finely diced carrots – 2 large
finely diced celery – 2 ribs
finely diced onion – 1 small or 1/2 large
garlic small dice – 2 cloves
lentils – 1 cup
hard-style, cooked sausage – I used Polish – about 1 pound
white wine – 1/2 cup
beef broth – 3 cups
tomato sauce – 1/2 cup
ricotta – dollop – I didn’t have any, so substituted cottage cheese

Sautee garlic in olive oil and some pepper flakes. Then add onions, celery, and carrots. Cook about 5 minutes, then add white wine. Then lentils, sausage, beef broth, and tomato sauce. Boil, then simmer X 20 minutes. Top with dollop of ricotta

George is a busy boy….

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER: Overcast and cool. High 60

We went from a unseasonably hot day yesterday (high 95) to a cool day today. Weather did not deter busy George.

We had this tool shed built after we bought the house.

We store all of our camping gear, grills, yard tools, etc inside. Since it was getting a bit crowded and unorganized, today George built a shelf and tidied things up.

While he was doing all of this, I was at yoga class. When I returned, he had several buckets of new plants, arrayed all over the yard. I was a bit perturbed…..spending money on shrubs that we don’t really need right now. However, he quickly told me that they were FREE – so I went back to happy me. A guy in the neighborhood loves to grow flowers, and he likes to give away plants.

We don’t have any backdoor neighbors, but we want to get a mature planting started to hide the fence, just in case someone does build on that lot.

In the afternoon, we had our monthly Retama Village book club meeting.. It was my turn to moderate the meeting. It is pretty easy to be the moderator, as it is a group of people who like to talk! Today we discussed “Where the Crawdads Sing” – an excellent book. I read it again this week to prep for the meeting.

DINNER: An “All-American” kind of meal…..grilled pork chops, sauteed mushrooms, roasted asparagus, and tater tots. While George had the grill going, I had him grill some bell peppers and onions for future meals. We do this a lot while we are camping, too — taking advantage of the hot grill.

BOOK: “The Housekeeper and the Professor” by Yoko Ogawa. A delightful little book about a Japanese professor and his young housekeeper. 5 stars out of 5

More wood-working successes

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER: Mostly sunny. High 80

George has been a busy boy again in the woodworking shop. We had seen these shower floors at an Airstream rally, and George decided to make a set himself.

Here they are inside the shower inside our Airstream trailer. We use the shower as our wine cellar and laundry bin. This will keep the bottom of the shower safe and clean..

Not in jail – just showing the flooring….

Not having anything else on our Sunday afternoon’s agenda, we went to the Mission Event Center to Artesano Days. Several artists were selling their wares – mostly Mexican clothing and jewelery. Very nice (but we didn’t buy anything!)

I even cosied up to this Mexican guapo….

George BBQ’d a big package of chicken thighs we bought on sale. I used some for tonight’s dinner, and froze the rest. They will come in handy for future recipes.

DINNER: Green chile stew. I picked up this recipe from our supermarket’s tasting area one day. I don’t know whether the base (photo below) is widely available or not – perhaps only in Latino markets. To that base, I added meat from the chicken thighs, cooked bacon and sausage, then half cans of corn, mixed vegetables, and black beans. Right before serving, I added a bit of cream. It was very tasty and easy.

Low-cost living in South Texas

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Retama Village in Mission, Texas
WEATHER: Beautiful. Sunny. High 82

In this post, I am going to focus on how inexpensive it is to live in the Rio Grande Valley. Mission and McAllen (our neighboring city) have some of the lowest cost of living indices in the USA.

Today started with delicious Texas pink grapefruit – free! People with grapefruit and orange trees set out buckets of citrus in front of their houses with signs saying -“please take — free” (Kind of like giving away zucchini in the Midwest in mid-summer).

George woke up with a toothache and said we had to go to Mexico to get the tooth pulled. He picked me up after 3 hours of line-dancing classes (we are preparing for a dance party), and away we went.

Nuevo Progreso, the nearest Mexican border town, is about a 45 minute drive.. On our way, we passed gas stations advertising gas for $1.79/gallon – the cheapest we have seen in a long time.

Nuevo Progreso was very busy. There were long lines to get into Mexico, both car and pedestrian. Once in town, we scurried past the hawkers wanting us to buy cialis, viagra, and every other known drug, to George’s dentist. No appointment required. After 20 minutes and $35, George was free of his aching tooth. He doesn’t get Novocain when he gets dental work!!! He figures he actually made money on the deal, as he will sell the gold filling for more than $35. 🙂

While he was getting some meds at one of the pharmacies, I hung out at a taco stand.

I ordered a gordita from a truck situated right in the main street. Gorditas (literally “little fat ones” ) are thick tortillas. I watched the senora make one from a ball of masa. She cooked it on the griddle, then slit it open (kind of like a pita). She asked me what filling I wanted (no English, of courses). I could choose from egg, cactus, potato, meat, and some word I did not recognize. I went with the meat. It was quite tasty – for $1.

I watched the street scene while he was at the pharmacy. Vendors run up and down the street, selling their wares to people in cars backed up from the border. The windshield wiper guy was doing quite a business. There were a lot of gringos drinking and eating in balconies overlooking the street.

We had to stand in line for more than an hour to cross back into the US. The longest wait we have ever experienced.

Then, back toward home, we stopped to do our weekly grocery shopping. When my friend from Minnesota was here, she marveled at how many aisles are dedicated to produce here, as compared to the Midwest. The fruit and veg are cheap and really fresh. We bought a huge, beautiful bunch of cilantro for a quarter; avocados for $.50, and mangos at their peak for $.50 each.

Back home, we made a fire in our firepit and watched the beautiful sunset.

DINNER: Sauteed scallops in a garlic, butter sauce, served over angel hair pasta. Side was roasted asparagus ($1.25/pound) drizzled with balsamic vinegar and shaved parmesan. Quite gourmet! (And easy for George to eat with his missing tooth)

BOOK: “Dust” by Martha Grimes. Part of a British detective series that I like. 4 stars out of 5.

More fun in south Texas

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER: Overcast but warm – 80

I was naughty and returned to the shop where we bought our clothes for the recent fashion show. This time, I was successful in buying a swimsuit and a pair of shorts – not easy as the main retail stores say that since it is “winter”, they do not stock these items this time of year. !!!

George has been busy at the woodworking shop. He took out the table that came with the Airstream – a plain, laminated-top table, and replaced it with a nice piece of wood that he cut, glued together, and stained. It looks so much nicer. It is also a bit narrower and shorter, so it will be easier for our taller guests to get in and out of the dining room seats.

Here is the Before….

And the After……

I am trying to accessorize a bit with teal highlights, so here is the table – set for dinner!

We signed up for an RV rally in southern Louisiana for April – a Cajun Fest. It sounds like it will be fun – Cajun food and entertainment. Several couples from Retama are going.

We had dinner with the couples that are going on the barge trip in France. We enjoyed a Moroccon dinner, as one couple just returned from there. We watched slide shows of their Morocco trip as well as a show of the canal trip that one couple did about 10 years ago – to acquaint us with how the boat works, etc.

Making travel plans

LOCATION: In our “tiny house” in Retama Village in Mission, Texas

WEATHER: Really nice.. Sunny High 75

We continue to enjoy our life in Retama Village, home of about 250 households – RV coach houses, porthomes, single-family homes, and tiny houses like ours. I keep busy with exercise and community events. Yesterday, I was feeling virtuous after 3 hours of line-dancing classes followed by an hour of water aerobics. All of that “goodness” was wiped away at a community wine & cheese event in the evening. There are lots of fun things coming up – Mardi Gras party, Leap Year parade, street parties, and book club meetings.

Today I am using the clubhouse’s wifi (we are too cheap to buy it for the tiny house as we are not here that many months), to do some summer trip planning. I just love to plan!

We will tentatively leave here in mid-May. First stop is Big Bend National Park. We want to visit the park again, and also this helps us create a route that avoids big cities like Dallas and Houston, as we leave Texas. Then, on to Minnesota where we used to live. Then, Upper Peninsula, Michigan, a beautiful part of the country. From there, we will head east following a route suggested by our friends Tony and Jenny from Nova Scotia. The route will take us through scenic Ontario. Continuing east, we will stay in northern Vermont for the 4th of July week, and hopefully do some Harvest Host camping in Vermont and Maine. Then, on to Acadia National Park where we already have reservations. Then, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. We were there once before, but it was a whirlwind trip and this time we would like to explore more slowly. We will then meet up with Tony and Jenny at their home in the beautiful Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. For the following 6 weeks or so, we will travel with them to PEI (maybe), Quebec, and Labrador. It will be a long trip! We go our separate ways in Quebec, they – back to Nova Scotia, and we -skidaddle back to Mission, Texas.

This puts us back in Mission in mid-to late- September. Almost immediately, we head to France where we are doing a 14-day canal trip on the Canal du Midi. Three other couples from Retama Village and we are renting a boat and doing the trip on our own. It sounds like a fun adventure…

After a week of travel (not sure where), we will make our way to Athens where we will depart on a 14-day cruise around the Mediterranean – visiting Greece, Cypress, Turkey, and Israel, finishing up back in Athens.

Nothing definite has been scheduled yet for after the Mediterrean cruise. I have applied to a housesitting assignment through for northern Spain for November and December, but don’t know if we will be selected or not.

I will post again when we have fun things to report. Thanks for following this blog!

Big day sightseeing with Nancy!

LOCATION: South Padre Island, Texas
WEATHER: Super windy. Overcast. High 70

Our Minnesota friend Nancy said good-bye to our tiny house and to Retama Village, and then we were off….

Our first destination was Mexico. The only nice Mexican town near us (with shops and safety) is Progreso. With that come a lot of tourists. We have never seen it so busy. Our first stop was the bridge over the Rio Grande with the obligatory photo of Nancy in Mexico and me in the USA

Then, the asault to our senses – people yelling to get us to go to their pharmacy (to buy just about anything you can imagine) or to get a manicure, or eye doctor, or implants at the dentist. People coming up to us to give us their business cards, adults and children trying to sell their wares. Exhausting! So what do you do? Have a margarita in Ponchos, of course

Once recovered, we did some shopping in El Disco, the souvenir shop next to Panchos. I just love the talavera pottery.

Nancy bought a few souvenirs, and then we we went in search of some food. We like to get away from the crowds, so we headed farther down the street. (The farther you go from the border the less crowded it is). We found an outdoor taco stand right on the street. Since they don’t speak English, we were the only gringos. Just love it!

We ordered a platter of fajita tacos, for $5. (Much better than the prices at Ponchos and the meat was cut from the twirling spit). We ordered beers, and they yelled to a guy standing on the sidewalk who took our order for El Indio beers, and ran to a market to buy us some. Fun!

We made our way back toward the border. This stand was selling pretty Mexican clothes. Sadly – note the beggar woman in the bottom right corner.

From Progreso, we continued east to South Padre Island. We wanted to show Nancy a little different style of South Texas.

She enjoyed walking on the beach, even though it was not a great beach weather day.

Of course, we checked out a few sand castles.

We stayed overnight at the Ramada. Interesting that a lot of Winter Texans stay there the whole winter season.

DINNER: At a beachside restaurant. We shared a Caesar salad topped with blackened chicken. Very nice.

This was a great, last day for our houseguest Nancy. It has been a fun week.