Passion in the Reid household!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village.  Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  The cold front came and went.  High 87

“George…..Turn me on”.  “George – PLEASE turn me on”.  George – can you listen and PULEESE turn me on?”  These are my pleas about 25+ times a day.  Over and over. George doesn’t respond very much…. Now readers, get your minds out of the gutter.  Here is the scoop….

Being frugal (aka cheap), we do not have cable.  In the times BC (Before Coronavirus), we went up to the clubhouse to use their wifi.  Now that the clubhouse is shuttered, we cannot do that.  Thankfully, T-mobile, on George’s phone, is offering free data for the duration of the virus.  So, I can link my tablet to his hotspot on George’s phone – for writing the blog, surfing the internet, communicating on Facebook, and doing emails..  So, periodically every day, I have to ask him to “turn me on” so I have access to the hotspot.  Often, he isn’t listening, and I have to  beg frequently and loudly.  I thought to myself that these pleas might sound a bit provocative if someone overheard me! 

BC, I was never a big Facebook user.  However now, with a lot of free time, I find myself reading funny posts, trying to ignore political posts, and sharing newsworthy ones.

Like most households, we seem to have a lot of devices – George reads books on his Kindle..

Besides my tablet, I have a low-tech phone.  George has a smart phone and a computer.  And…..we have a lot of chargers!  I think most households have that “cluttered look” when it comes to cords. 

My day today…….

Around 9:00, while it was still cool-ish, I took a long walk to the National Butterfly Center.  Its future is still uncertain – it might be a casualty of THE WALL.  I walked briskly for one hour, and really worked up a sweat since it is very humid. 

I saw some beautiful birds – a male cardinal and a Baltimore Oriole on the walk

Back home, I decided to plunge into cleaning projects.  Today’s effort was one section of kitchen cupboards.  I even alphabetized the spice drawer!

Then, about 1:30,  I received an email notification that our pool has been re-opened.  YAY!!!!    Happy days are here again!!!  Hallelulah!  I don’t know why this was decided, and I am not arguing.  Zippadadedaa! I think it is because many residents challenged the closing decision, claiming that ours is a private pool, and doesn’t fall under the ruling of public pool closures. 

Ten minutes later, I was in the pool!

DINNER:  Chicken cacciatore..  Sides were salad and baked grits – leftover from Sunday breakfast – with an egg and cheese stirred in for goodness. 

The Joy of Cooking

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village.  Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  That cold front DID come in.  High 75.  On-and-off rain

We awoke to the glorious sound of rain.  Since we arrived here in January, it has hardly rained at all.  The rain freshened everything and cooled things down.  I took a long walk around the neighborhood.  While I was walking,  I saw 3 big rigs leave – two big 5th wheelers and one huge motor home, pulling a big pick-up.  I guess Sundays are good days to drive.  One of the 5th-wheeler travelers are our neighbors.  They reported this mishap, after only about two hours into their trip…

Our village has about 250 homes.  About 50 couples live here year-’round, I think.  Most people have another home up north somewhere.  There are about 20 couples  – like us – who fall into the 3rd category of those who normally would be leaving about now, spending the summer months camping around the USA and Canada, but this year are staying put as we have nowhere to go yet.  I just hope YET is the key word here. 

We made a nice brunch.  I made a spinach/egg bake and George made his weekly Sunday morning special – grits. 

Several months ago, someone in Retama announced that she was giving away hundreds of cookbooks that her husband had used for years.  I picked up this really good cookbook from her.  It has beautiful illustrations.  During this time of relative inactivity, I am trying to cook more vegetables and less of the fattening stuff.  The cookbook is originally from England, so it is fun to see the British words for certain things.  I knew a few – but sometimes I have to google an ingredient to figure it out.  Here are some…

Courgette – zucchini
Aubergine – eggplant
Capsicum – bell pepper
Rocket – arugula
Coriander leaf – cilantro  (this is very confusing as we also use the word coriander)
Mangetot – snow peas
Broad beans – fava
Baby cos – romaine
Witlof – endive
Beetroot – beet
Sultanas – golden raisins
Silverbeet – Swiss chard
Swedes – rutabaga

I used that cookbook for this morning’s brunch.

While on the topic of the English language, we learned from our Ontario neighbor – who used to be a policeman-  that the word cops is not offensive at all.  In Canada (and in England, too, I think), the word for policeman is constable.  At some point, in the USA, the word cops evolved from Constable On Patrol.  Nice tidbit for the day!

I did an hour of VERY strenuous yoga.  The first DVD I did the other day was pretty mild.  Somehow this second DVD fast-forwarded from beginner to advanced.  I was drenched with sweat afterwards, and couldn’t do some of the poses.  Hopefully it did some good!

We had a delightful Skype conversation with our friends Jenny and Tony from Nova Scotia.  We are hoping that we will be able to travel with them as planned this summer.  Together, we are planning a route starting at their house in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia, over to PEI, then to Quebec and Labrador. 

DINNER:  Fajitas.  George bought some fajita meat at a Mexican meat market nearby.  It came seasoned with fajita flavor.  He grilled it on the charcoal grill.  We had it with tortillas, grilled onions, cheese, and salsa.  Muy bueno!

After dinner and after watching 60 Minutes, we made a fire in the firepit.  All was great, until it started raining again! 

Music to warm our souls

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Another hot one – high 94.  A “cold front” is supposed to come in tonight

We awoke to a beautiful sunrise.  One of our Village residents took this photo of the  sunrise peeking through our clubhouse

I took a walk around the neighborhood before it got too hot.  It is interesting to look at the car/RV license plates to see where people are from.  The majority of the plates are Texas ones.  This is because many Winter Texans live here 6 months and 1 day, so that they can claim Texas (a non-income tax state)  as their primary home.  Similarly, you see several plates here from South Dakota, another non-income tax state that welcomes full-time RVers to claim SD as their home state.  Beyond TX and SD, I saw plates from (in somewhat descending order) Nebraska, Ontario, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kansas, Alaska, Michigan, Tennessee, Illinois, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Arizona, Florida, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, and even Hawaii!  Many of the driveways, however, are empty as people have fled the Rio Grande Valley to hunker down in their Northern homes.

I did a yoga session in the air-conditioned Airstream, then a chair yoga YouTube practice.  I am really trying not to blimp up!

George decided that the bedroom armoir was leaning a bit (although I did not notice anything wrong).  So, he took it all apart, squeezed it through our narrow hallway, and turned it upside down in the dining area.  Not a small feat!  He moved the levelers around until he was satisfied.  My assignment was to clean it up well, before we put it back.  That project killed a few hours!  🙂

When happy hour time rolled around, we treated ourselves to a passion fruit gin and tonic.  When we were housesitting in South Africa, a few months ago, there was a huge passion fruit vine in the backyard that provided about 10 perfectly ripe passion fruits daily.  We made up this G&T  recipe and really liked its taste.  So, when we were shopping recently, we spotted a few fruits in the produce section.  Unlike being free in South Africa, each fruit was $2.00.  Obviously we will not be doing this often, but it was a  fun splurge today.

To accompany our cocktails, I grilled the rest of the tofu that we had had yesterday.  I squeezed as much moisture as I could out of the tofu, then cut it in small cubes, fried the cubes in a small amount of oil in a non-stick pan, then served drizzled with a soy/ginger sauce. 

Then, the fun began.  Copying Italy’s coping mechanism, one of our talented residents announced that he would be doing a saxophone serenade in front of his house.  At sunset, several of us walked or rode golf carts to his street to listen to him play his tenor and alto sax.  He performed a lot of favorites, including Louis Armstrong’s “It’s a Wonderful World”.  It was quite moving.  We all kept our 6+ – feet distance, sitting in driveways, on bicycles, and in golf carts.

DINNER:  Spinach quiche, topped with a sauce made of green onions, mushrooms, more wilted spinach and goat cheese.  Side was grilled asparagus. 

Our tiny house is shrinking…..

LOCATION:  In our ever-shrinking tiny house in Retama Village, Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Another hot and sunny one.  High 98

By the time I “got up and at ’em”, it was too hot to walk.  Before Coronavirus times (BC), I ordered 3 yoga DVDs to use on our summer camping trip.  They arrived a few days ago.  How lucky!  In BC times, I had been doing chair yoga daily, and mat yoga once a week.  I was really missing it, so tried out one of the  DVDs in the Airstream today.  (We don’t have a DVD player in the house).  It was a little tight, but I managed most of the poses, managing not to hit my head on the table, or banging my knees on cupboards. 

We talked with our Ontario neighbors over the back fence.  We told them that “Over the Back Fence” is a Minnesota old-timie radio show we used to listen to  – kind of like “Prairie Home Companion”.    We kept our 6-foot distance, chatting and watching 2 grackle birds courting. 

With this lack of exercise opportunities, I am trying to be extra careful about calorie intake.  My daughter and I email each other daily with what we have consumed (food and drink) and what exercise we have completed.  It helps me not to snack during the day.  I may be a little obsessive about this, but I plan a menu weekly for both lunch and dinner, and then buy what I need at the supermarket weekly, or biweekly.  Of course in these times, I have to improvise some when items are not available.  If I don’t plan lunch especially, it is easy to just make a quick lunchmeat sandwich; but we don’t need the bread or the processed meat.  So today, I made a big chef’s salad for us, arugula topped with a hard-boiled egg, bacon bits, garbanzo beans, and cheese.  Arugula is my favorite type of salad green.  When we shopped last, this huge container was all they had, so we have been eating arugula almost daily!  A good thing is that arugula does not go bad as quickly as other greens.  I also read that arugula is supposed to help one’s auto-immune system, which is important during this crisis.

The afternoon was spent cleaning up my emails and reading.  Some people have said that their houses have never been cleaner, but somehow I cannot get motivated to clean during this isolation. 

DINNER:  Mushroom risotto made with various kinds of mushrooms – button, oyster, shiitake, and portobello.  Side was roasted Brussels sprouts.  Quite gourmet! 

BOOK: I finished “Olive Kitteridge” by Elizabeth Strout. A very strange book, I thought. It seems to be a collection of stories about quirky characters in a small Maine town. Olive, the main character, is woven into several of the chapters. I read that it was an HBO series. 4 stars out of 5.

And so it begins…..

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Here we go…..102 and full sun

And so it begins…..isolation and hot, hot, hot!

Concerned that the laundry room would be the next thing to be axed, I washed every single dirty item I could find.  This involved several trips to and from the laundry room, which was good – the only exercise I got today.  (Whine here)

We passed the morning standing out on our driveway, speaking loudly to people across the street in their driveways.  The new normal, I guess.

Tonight our city starts a Shelter In Place program whereby we can only go out if we are buying essential things.  Other than the grocery store and pharmacy,  I don’t know what is considered essential.  George needed a tool, and not knowing if the hardware would be essential (open tomorrow), we took a drive there.  The traffic is pretty quiet. Nice to have an outing, even if I stayed in the truck the whole time.

Does anyone know how to launder money?  Really!  We got some cash from an ATM, but I hate to touch it, as money is filthy (even before Coronavirus). 

Our neighbors asked us if we needed anything at the supermarket, since they were going.  I have not bought toilet paper since BC (Before Coronavirus).  We had quite a lot, since I had previously bought some on sale, but now we are getting a tad low. So I asked them to pick some up for us if they saw any.  They scored!

Now, we shouldn’t have to go to the store for about 2 weeks….when the wine supply runs low…:-)

Today was mowing day in the Village.  Our HOA includes lawn service.  These guys all work really hard.  While they were at our yard, we asked them if they would cut down this ugly tree in the back.  They did it!  Now we will need to decide whether to plant a pretty bush there, or just leave it as grass

About a week ago, I posted a photo of this big, fat caterpillar happily munching on our milkweed. 

After he and his buddies stripped all of the milkweed, they apparently crawled over to our neighbor’s RV, where they have settled in  – hanging out (literally) on their stairwell”

It was beastly hot today, so I stayed in most of the day.  I can feel the pounds piling on already.  George worked some in the yard, then cooled off with the water hose.

DINNER:  A Japanese theme.  We still have some of our dishes from the years we lived in Japan.  I set the table with chopsticks, a nice chopstick holder, and a vase/cup for sake.  Appetizer was hiyayako – small cubes of chilled tofu with a soy sauce/mirin/sake marinade.  Topped with scallion slivers.  Main was an ahi tuna steak with Asian vegetables.  Side was sunomono (translated as “pickled food”).  I cut paper thin cucumber slices which had marinated in that same sauce.  As they say in Japan….Oishikata! 

Hunkering down….

LOCATION:  In our tiny house (very close together) in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Very hot – 95.  Full sun

Some nights, when it cools off during the night, we leave our windows open.  It is neat to hear the coyotes baying in the distance.  Then, the birds give us a wonderful wake-up song around 7:00.  This morning, all of that was accompanied by the sound of the Border Patrol helicopter right above our house.  It hovered there for about 30 minutes.  Later, I heard that a young woman and child (illegals) were dashing through our village, and were caught.  This is such a sad situation. 

A friend had arranged for an outdoor yoga class in the mid-morning.  There were just a few of us, and we kept a significant distance between each other.  Before Coronavirus, the teacher used to rub a tiny bit of essential oils on our foreheads as we relaxed at the end of the class.  Today, she had us hold out our hands, and she poured a drop onto our hands, so she wouldn’t touch us.  Very responsible

Then, one other lady and I had the pool to ourselves and did an informal water aerobics class. This was followed by our scheduled class at noon.  We were about 6 in the pool. 

Then, I got home and logged onto the internet. My life changed.  There was a notice that the swimming pool is closed effective immediately.  Many of us are so angry, as we have been so careful to be compliant with the 10-person max rule.  One woman even said her doctor had recommended physical therapy in the pool, and told her that the combination of chlorine and sun would be helpful. 

Now, I have to figure out what to do all day.  Being a Northerner, I cannot walk when it is above 75 degrees, so I will have to do my hikes before sunrise.  I don’t know how I will fill the days.   Books and internet, I guess. 

I know I am whining, and in more rational moments, realize how lucky we are — safe and at least we can be outside in the early mornings and late evenings to get fresh air.  I pity those cooped up in small apartments with children. 

We are now stuck here, with mandates that we cannot travel.  Also, most RV parks and campgrounds are not accepting new campers.  We will just wait and see.

We are enjoying the oleanders that we planted in the back.  This one has different blossoms on different parts of the plant.

I made tabbouli for dinner to use up some of my mint.  It and the basil are liking this sun…

DINNER:  A Middle-East theme:  pitas stuffed with chicken and sauteed onions, flavored with tumeric, curry, and cumin.  Side was a mix of minced cucumber in Greek yogurt, and the tabbouli.

Happy Anniversary to Us!

LOCATION:  In(side) our very tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Beautiful early mornings and evenings with a delightful breeze.  Hot mid-day.  90

When I logged onto Facebook in the morning, up popped greetings from Facebook wishing us a happy anniversary, and showing me lots of photos of George and me together.  I said, “What is this?  Their computer systems must be confused”.  Then, I looked at the calendar and realized that it is indeed our anniversary!  Wow!  Then, I had to do the math to figure out how many years…..44!!

After being cooped up for about 4 hours, I walked down to the clubhouse and decided to do a water aerobics class on my own.  It is a half-hour one, using a noodle.  Good core work.  Then, others joined me (with social distancing) and we did our regular noon class. 

The afternoon actually flew by with my continued efforts to clean up my computer tablet – lots of old photos, notes, and emails to organize.  And, I enjoyed reading Happy Anniversary wishes on Facebook.  So nice!

One of our friends in Retama has been spending her isolation days making wine.  She makes some very good ones.  She brought us over one that she just bottled – a Muller Thurgau – which I had never heard of. 

We are so lucky to be in a climate where we can be outside during this isolation.  We watched on TV scenes from Italy where people sing and play musical instruments from their balconies.  In our village this evening, we had something similar…..One resident sat on a chair in the middle of his street, and played songs on his saxophone  like “Amazing Grace’ and “When the Saints Go Marching In”.  The whole village enjoyed the serenade!

DINNER:  When we shopped the other day, staples like meat and chicken were not available.  So, I bought more unusual items like frozen scallops.  So, for tonight’s celebratory dinner, we had seared scallops in a butter garlic sauce, cream of celery soup (needed to use up some celery) and sauteed, zucchini matchsticks.  All washed down nicely with the Muller Thurgau from our friend.  Scallops seem like an extravagance, but they aren’t really, when you do the math.  A $10 package will provide 8 servings.  And, there is no waste. 

Later, we sat on the patio (actually our driveway), and enjoyed the beautiful breeze.  Some other friends dropped off some anniversary flowers, freshly cut from their yard. 

Venturing out…..

LOCATION:  Inside (literally) our tiny house in Retama Village in Mission, TX
WEATHER:  Pleasant.  High 73.  Sunny

We enjoyed our Sunday ritual of watching “CBS Sunday Morning”, although for the most part it was depressing as is most news.  They did an interesting story on why some people get so freaked out during times like this – like fighting over supplies in a supermarket, hoarding, and watching the news 24/7.

It was a good morning – still cool – to make vegetable broth. Every day while I am cooking, I put the veg peelings, parsley stems, etc in a plastic bag in the freezer. Sometimes I toss in chicken bones and skin. Then I boil all the veg down for vegetable and/or chicken broth. I have lots of containers of the broth now in the freezer.

We worked on our bushes and flowers that are almost at their peak.  We are tempted to kill these caterpillars as they are stripping some of our plants, but we know that they will become beautiful butterflies soon. This is the Texas milkweed plant, nothing like the ones with the same name in the Midwest.

We prepped for a shopping trip, our regular weekly one (NOT hoarding!!!)  We decided to go to Sprouts, a small specialty chain like a small Whole Foods, thinking it might be less crazy.  Indeed, it wasn’t too crowded, but they were out of a lot of staples.  The meat selection was totally empty, as were the egg and milk shelves.  We were not too impacted as we were buying more unusual foods – almond milk, bulgar wheat, olives, baguettes, and lots of fruits and veg.

The main reason we went shopping was to buy things for a get together with a couple from Retama who will be on the cruise around Greece that we are hopefully making this October.  It was somewhat accidental – we hadn’t planned to travel together, but while chatting one day, we realized that both couples are booked on the same cruise.

We kept our social distance when they came over, planning ship excursions while munching on feta cheese, goat cheese, Greek olives, and pita bits.  Nice!

DINNER:  Not able to buy any regular beef while shopping today, I picked up a package of corned beef, probably left over from St. Patrick’s Day.  So, I improvised and made corned beef sandwiches with sauteed red cabbage. 

BOOK:  “Pardonable Lies” by Jacqueline Winspear.  Part of a series about a female detective in post-war London.  4 stars out of 5

Fun in isolation…..not so much

LOCATION:  Cooped up in our tiny house in Retama Village in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  A big change….Cool (high in 60s) and light rain

What a difference a day makes…..Yesterday was unusually hot – about 98 and today we won’t hit 70.  Since swimming is not in the cards today, I did a one-hour hike around the sugar cane fields.  I didn’t see anyone else during the walk.  Line-dancing is done for the year, due to closures of the clubhouse, so I really felt a need to exercise.

We had a l-o-n-g day of not doing too much.  George kept busy “piddling” in the shed, organizing his tools, etc.  I spent most of the afternoon cleaning up old files and photos on my new computer tablet.  Yawn, yawn.  Thank goodness for a good book!

We did some yard work.  The flowers are really looking good, and they are happy with the rain – the first we have had in 3 months.

We went to the community wood-working shop (we were the only ones there) and gathered 3 big bins of wood scraps which we will hopefully use this summer for kindling when we camp out. Some of the scraps are cedar which smells so good.   Let’s keep our fingers crossed that we will be traveling!

Our new oleander plants, planted to hide the ugly utility box and fence, are doing well.

George got so bored that he trimmed the neighbor’s bushes, so we would have a nicer view.  An ugly bush was crowding out a pretty yellow bush.  Hope the neighbors won’t mind, once they return! 

In the evening, we made a fire in our firepit and enjoyed the fresh air.  Our neighbors from Ontario came over, practicing social distancing – we sat far apart and in a cloud of smoke.

As I have said before, our area, called the Rio Grande Valley – red counties on Texas map below – has been fairly isolated from the virus.  We are probably a week behind the rest of the country.  We heard that we now have our first case in the RGV. 

DINNER: Grilled chicken thighs with a side of broccoli with a cheese sauce.

Life with Coronavirus

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Very hot – 98 and humid

We took our daughter to Harlingen airport, about 35 miles from here, for her flight back to Minnesota.  It was so nice having her, even though it was a short 3-day visit. 

When she and I walked around our village, she was fascinated by the golf carts that some people use to drive around.  This one is especially cute….

It is getting quieter and quieter here.  Most Winter Texans leave our area, the Rio Grande Valley, at the end of March.  This year, many are leaving sooner, as they don’t want to get stuck here.  However, our neighbor, on their way to Illinois, spent one night in a crowded storm shelter due to a hurricane in Oklahoma.  Nowhere seems to be safe.  Here is our street, normally full of people, but now eerily empty.

Alexis was also intrigued by our beautiful sunsets and night sky, and took this photo of her last night here.

A bit of a rant here……Some blog readers have scolded me for seemingly not paying enough attention to the Coronavirus.  I just have to say that indeed we are cautious, but I just prefer not to write about it all of the time, as all of us hear enough about it already!  We keep our distance – 4 swimmers, each in our own corner of the huge swimming pool as we do water aerobics.  Or, 4 line dancers spread far apart in an all-purpose room.  When we went out to eat with Alexis, we were the only diners in a big patio area.  I think those actions are safer than those of people who crowd in long lines at Costco and Walmart to do their hoarding.  So far, we haven’t had any cases in our area, and the population decreases each day as people head north.   End of rant.

3/20 update…..Our community just closed down the gym, clubhouse, and all-purpose room.  Texas is closing all restaurants.  So, life will get even quieter.  Thank heavens for books to read!  (online of course, since that is our only option)

We hope to leave here at the end of April for our long, summer road trip, but now will just wait and see what the situation is.  We don’t want to stay here for the summer with temps at 110+. 

DINNER:  Now that Alexis is gone, it is back to leftovers.  Tonight I made a spaghetti sauce with onion, leftover hamburger meat, garlic, carrots, and mushrooms.  Served over cheese-filled ravioli.  Side was a salad full of fresh basil from my nice-looking basil plant.