Making road-trip plans!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  A bit cooler and overcast.  High 88

Every morning, George walks around our yard, making sure everything is OK.  Today he found big holes around some of our shrubs…a sign that javalinas had been digging.  Javalinas look like pigs, but are peccaries.  We have seen some in our neighborhood – often moms with their babies.  We didn’t actually see this one, but this is what they look like.

I spent most of the day happily researching campgrounds and RV parks with a possible route to Minnesota in a few weeks.  We are going to try to stay in state parks (those that are open), a few Harvest Host sites, and Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) parks.  The ACOE parks are not yet open, but may open up next week for reservations.  We like them as they are always top-notch, generally with full hook-ups, are located on beautiful lakes, and are inexpensive.  With our National Park Senior Pass, we get 50% off, so most are about $12-$15.

DINNER:  We had a package of frozen seafood mix (shrimp, mussels, calamari, octopus) to use up.  The package said it was assembled in Spain with the seafood coming from Peru, Morocco, and India.  We like to buy these packages, as they are healthy and inexpensive.  The package had a good-looking recipe on it that I thought I would try.  I soon realized that the English was goofy and that the instructions did not match up with the recipe’s ingredients.  Funny!  So, I improvised.  I made some rice, starting first with onion and garlic, then added chicken broth.  I sauteed the bag of seafood, and mixed it in with the rice.  I topped it with oregano and parmesan.  Quite good.  Salad was another caprese salad….I want to use up all my basil within the next 2 weeks. 

BOOK:. “Look Alive, Twenty-five” by Janet Evanovich.  I have read most of her books, and found this one tiresome….too much like her others.  It is a series about a female New Jersey bounty-hunter that finds herself in all kinds of dangerous/funny situations.  2 stars out of 5

Getting out to run errands

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Overcast.  Some rain.  High 88

We weren’t sure we could do water aerobics today as storms were predicted, but they held off until later in the afternoon.

After a quick lunch, we drove to town for some errands.  It is nice to get out once in a while.  The first stop was Home Depot, where George needed to get a part for the Airstream hook-up.  I stayed in the truck;  no need to have more people interaction than necessary.  Speaking of necessary….the next stop was the liquor store.  We stocked up on regular stuff, and I bought a bottle of campari for a new drink recipe (below).  Next stop was a restaurant/bar we like, as they have the best beer selection in the entire Rio Grande Valley.  They also have a nice patio area that is covered, so no need to be concerned about the rain.  As we were the only customers on the patio, we felt pretty safe from Covid, too.

I had an IPA from a Texas brewery and George had an unusual stout – aged in a bourbon barrel.  The resident cat was taking it easy….

BREAKING NEWS:  While at the restaurant, we got a telephone call from Mayo Clinic about an appointment we were hoping to get.  They are cautiously starting to see a few patients other than Covid victims.  We have been waiting to hear from them so we can plan our summer trip.  They told us the appointment is early July, so we will probably leave here mid-June.  Now I can start making a route and camping reservations.  We plan to make a loop – from here to Minnesota, then up to Montana, followed by Colorado.  From there, we will mosey back here.  If our trip to Europe is still on, we will need to be back by mid-September.  If that is off, then we will stay on the road longer. 

When I was watching a cooking show on TV the other day, they demonstrated how to make some different cocktails.  One looked good – a Negroni. With the new bottle of campari, I tried it this evening:  One  jigger each of gin, campari, and sweet vermouth.  Add a bit of orange or lemon zest.  Yum!

DINNER:  Now that we have a departure date, I need to start depleting the freezer some in order for everything to fit in the Airstream freezer.  So, tonight I asked George to cook up some chicken, brats,  and hamburgers on the grill for future recipes.  And, he warmed up pork chops for tonight’s dinner:  porkchops, cabbage, and tator tots.  Unfortunately the skies opened up while he was grilling and the fire went out! 

Another project completed

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Hot and sunny.  High 98

I did a yoga class using Zoom.  It was good, except the instructor’s dog yapped the entire time in the background….hard to get into the zen with that noise going on!

Then, 2 classes of water aerobics.  We rotate CDs/routines.  Today’s was the more strenuous one.  I always feel virtuous when that one is over  🙂

Our neighbor caught their 11th opposum last night.  “Trapper Man”, our helpful animal rescue man,  took it out of its trap and relocated it far away.  More rattlesnakes have been found, and a lot of huge tarantulas have been spotted.  If that is not enough, now we have gigantic cane toads.  Their skin has a toxin on it and if a dog licks it, dead or alive, the dog could die.

Another Facebook memory popped up today – this one from 2 years ago when we were house-sitting in Bordeaux.  We drove around in the country, getting quite lost, looking for this castle which we finally found.  It was the home of Josephine Baker, the famous burlesque dancer/singer.  The day was capped off with the most scrumptious lunch ever.  We stumbled upon a modest restaurant where they served us seared fois gras in tagliatelle in a morel sauce.  Out of this world!!!

George finished his project of the enclosure for the unsightly utility box.   He stained the wood and it looks quite nice. 

George got the wood free, from a friend redoing his fence.  We invited that couple over for cocktail and to show them the finished product.   They are fun. 

DINNER:  Chicken chimichangas.  I made this recipe a few weeks ago with fajita meat, and this time switched it out with chicken.  Very good.  They are baked, not fried, so not so sinful.

Trying to Get Fit!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Hot, hot – 100 and sunny

We moved our outdoor seating to the front of the house so we can enjoy morning coffee (and so I won’t run over the chairs with the truck!)  I moved the basil and mint so they wouldn’t get so much afternoon sun – they add some color to the front, too.

I was feeling energetic today —  I did a chair yoga class followed by THREE water aerobics classes!  I didn’t have much else to do, so thought I would get as much exercise as I could.

It gets quieter and quieter around here.  I saw another RV pull out today.  Some neighbors are leaving next week.  They had an elaborate RV trip planned for Alaska, but that is off.  I think they are going to Montana instead.  We are still “on hold” with our plans. 

Our monthly mail package arrived today.  We use a mail-forwarding service based in Sioux Falls.  That is considered our permanent address.  Each month I instruct them where and when to send the mail.  It works out very well (except for that one horrible experience last year in Ohio).  The arrival always brings a flurry of excitement, but today’s “flurry” lasted only about 5 minutes as there was not much inside.  Maybe next month…

There has not been any activity on the lot behind us for several days.  They may need to wait until the soil dries, after our heavy rains. 

The afternoon was spent reading.  I finished one book, and am halfway through the second!

DINNER:  Healthy and tasty:  I sauteed some mahi mahi fillets, trying to sear the outsides and keep the insides fairly rare.  Sides were rice pilaf and creamy broccoli.  If we hit the road anytime soon, I have a lot of food in the freezer that needs to be dealt with – will not fit in the Airstream freezer. 

BOOK:. “Cold, Cold Heart” by Tami Hoag.  I have read some of her books before.  Her books are about solving some gruesome crime.  4 stars out of 5

Swimming in the Rain!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Overcast.  Off-and-on rain.  High 85

Just Swimming in the Rain…..not Singing in the Rain!!

It stormed during the night – the lightning put on quite a show!  We got some much-needed rain.

By mid-morning, the storms had stopped so I went to the swimming pool for water aerobics.  As we started our first class, the skies opened up and it poured!  We figured we were already wet, so continued swimming.  We watched the skies for lighting, and it seemed safe.  Kind of fun!

Wishful thinking, perhaps…..I spent some time this afternoon making fire-starters for campfires – hoping that we will hit the road soon.  All year, I save up used toilet paper cardboard rolls and laundry lint.  I stuff the lint into the rolls and dab in a little Vaseline.  They are great to get a campfire going. 

This pulmeria is growing in our neighbor’s yard, and is finally starting to bloom.  Our neighbor planted it on our border so we can both enjoy it.  It is also called frangipani.  It is the flower used to make leis in Hawaii.  We are about the same latitude as Hawaii, so it should do well here.

I saw this Facebook post which shows just how far South we are.  The red counties are considered “The Valley”, or “Rio Grande Valley” or “RGV”.  Texas is a BIG state!

Another photo popped up as a Facebook memory.  This was from 4 years ago.  This was during our Australia  housesitting trip.  We were in a town called Moolalah  (We liked saying that) –  It was in the mountains near the Sunshine Coast. This cat shed a lot, and George discovered she actually liked being vacuumed! 

Here is our route during the 5-month housesitting assignment trip. Australia is roughly the same size as the continental USA.

DINNER:  Two salads.  First was a caprese salad, to use some of our fresh basil.  The second was called a Lemon Grilled Chicken in Bulgher Salad, but it wasn’t really a salad.  But — it was really good.  A nice change of pace.  I saw the recipe in a magazine called “Clean Eating”.  It is simple to make:  For about 30 minutes, marinate boneless chicken breasts or thighs in a plastic bag with a lot of lemon juice, pizza peppers, and cumin.  Then, grill.  Meanwhile, make bulgher according to the package directions.  I boiled some vegetable broth, added the bulgher, and then let it sit for 7 minutes, fluffing it up.  To serve, add some lemon zest, slivered almonds, and the diced chicken.  Top with fresh mint, salt, and pepper

Happy Memorial Day!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:   Not quite as hot.  Overcast.  85

It was a pretty low-key Memorial Day.  Our neighbors decorated their front piece of landscape with flags and lights for the holiday weekend.

One couple in the village had an open house/BBQ, but we didn’t go…..a little leery about a grouping of 30+ people with potluck. 

Instead, I did chair yoga and water aerobics classes.  George started a new project.  We have a very ugly, leaning utility box in our backyard.  When we bought the lot, we tried to get them to at least level the thing, but the utility company would not do it.  We have planted oleanders around it to try to camouflage it, but it is still an eyesore.  So, George started making an enclosure for it.

The wood just sits on the cement, and is not permanent, as we need to allow access to the utility company.  He will stain the wood and add some decorative wood pieces on top.

Then, busy boy that he is, he made a nice charcoal fire.  He cooked some bacon and chicken for future recipes, and warmed up ribs for tonight.

DINNER:  BBQ’d ribs, sauteed cabbage, and tator tots.

11th Sunday in the Pandemic….

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Hot.  98.  Sunny

A slow Sunday.  I think today marks our 11th Sunday of the pandemic, and self-isolation.  Even though this state of Texas has “opened up”,  our behavior is not changing.  We will continue to stay to ourselves, and don’t plan to go out much.  Masks are still required in most places. 

George made his usual Sunday breakfast of eggs and grits.  I have discovered a great way to cook leftover grits…..I stir in an egg and a lot of parmesan and bake it in a ramekin.  They turn out fluffy, like a souffle.  It is a great alternative to pasta. 

I was communicating today with my friend from Nova Scotia.  She commented that now that the weather is nice, she is outside more, working in her yard and garden.  I, on the other hand, find myself more and more cocooned in the tiny house reading most of the day, as I cannot tolerate the heat outside.  It is only going to get worse…

George, on the other hand, likes the heat.  To make himself miserable (in my opinion), he likes to go over to the Airstream and watch old golf tournaments on Sunday afternoons.  He does not turn on the air-conditioning, so it must be beastly hot.  To each his own!

This Facebook memory photo popped up today.  It was taken two years ago when we were housesitting in a small town outside of Bordeaux.  We visited a little town where we found a nice cafe for lunch.  The chef/owner came out to greet us, happy to see a foreigner.  I wonder if the French will continue their hugging customs after the pandemic….

DINNER:  Mexican-style red beans and rice.  I used  dry beans and soaked them all day.  Then, I sauted some onion, garlic, and fajita meat and added to the cooked beans.  Served over rice.  Side was a romaine lettuce salad. 

BOOK:  With not much else to do, I finished another book –   “The Mapping of Love and Death” by Jacqueline Winspear.  It is a British female detective story that takes place in the early 1900s.  I am almost finished with the series.  4 stars out of 5. 

2019 and 2020 Memorial Day Weekends…

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Hot – 97 and sunny

No yoga today, just two classes of water aerobics.  I feel so good after the classes, and feel fortunate that we have been able to do this during the pandemic.

George and I spent the afternoon in the kitchen.  (A bit crowded with the 2 of us trying to use the same countertop and utensils)  I made some hummus while George baked some French baguettes.  I also did some prep for dinner tonight. 

George’s bread turned out great, and made the house smell heavenly….

The workers behind the house have the batterboards ready for pouring concrete.  That will probably happen next week.

Another Facebook memory – this one not so good.  It is a photo from the start of our summer 2019 camping trip.  As we were leaving Texas, near the Louisiana border, we ran over something which jumped up and shattered our dining area window.  We did not even know it was broken until we stopped later in the day.  George was able to tape it closed to keep the rain out.  If it had to happen, it happened at a good time…..we were on our way to the Airstream factory in Ohio for its annual rally called Aluminapalooza.  We called and they said they would fix the window the day before the rally started.  But, we still had a week to get through hoping it would not rain in. 

That was just the beginning of probably the worst camping experience we have had.  Aluminapalooza started the day after Memorial Day, at its factory in central Ohio.  We knew that we would have to find a campground before the event somewhere in Ohio, during Memorial Day weekend, the busiest campground weekend of the year. So, I started searching for one in about February, 2019.  Absolutely everything was already booked!  I was getting pretty frantic when I finally found one that was run by a water management government agency.  I  asked if we could have our mail sent there.  They said ok, and gave me the mailing address.  (We often have our monthly mail sent to us like this when we travel for long periods). 

When we arrived at the registration office, it was very unorganized, and was staffed by college kids, their first weekend on the job.  We got checked in and were assigned our site.  We drove in and realized that almost all the campsites are seasonal,…..”stuff” everywhere.   We drove up and down the rows searching for our site.  Finally we asked a camper who said he thought our site might be in their second location.  So, we went back to the registration office, and they said yes, we were in the other location, about 4 miles away.  Why didn’t they tell us that in the first place????

We found the second location.  It, too, seemed like everyone was there for the summer season.  The road was very narrow with tight curves.  We searched and searched for our site.  We even ran over someone’s garden when we tried making one curve.  Finally, I got out of the truck and walked around.  I found our site with the number on a post that had been thrown in the ditch.  The site was totally unusable.  It was tiny, muddy, and was being used as a storage area – lots of derelict picnic tables, old grills, etc piled on it.  So, back we went to the registration office.  They assigned us another site, and back we went.  This one looked sketchy, too.  Was on a steep hill and was muddy.  A camper came out and helped us pull in.  At this point, I really wanted to leave, but there was absolutely nowhere to go.  By this time, it is Friday of Memorial Day weekend.  So, we got set up. 

The campground was on a lake and everyone seemed to have a boat.  It was noisy and crowded.  Bathrooms were a mess. 

Then, things just got worse.  Our neighbors arrived, ready to party.  They were loud and were drinking a lot of cheap beer.  We went to bed and then smelled smoke about midnight.  They had made a HUGE campfire just inches from our Airstream.  Their little kid was happily squeezing lighter fluid onto the fire to make it go higher.  The smell of that lighter fluid filled our trailer.  We were also afraid that the flames were too close to us, and that the awning would alight at any minute.  They continued to do this every night we were there. 

Could things get worse?  Oh yes!  We went to the registration office to pick up our mail.  In the mail package was George’s heart medicine that costs $350.  The college kid workers had not seen any package, but said they would check.  Back and forth we went from our campground to the office.  Finally, we talked with a ranger (rude) who said that their policy was not to accept campers’ mail.  So, why did they tell us we could have our mail sent there????  He said there was no package for us, and to check the post office in town.  There, the post office ladies had a record of our package being delivered there.  They even had a photo of it, which I guess is post office practice.  Back we went to the campground office.  Again, they looked and looked and no one would claim any knowleldge of having seen it.  (Although the post office lady said she personally remembered giving it to someone).  The next day at our campsite, another park ranger stopped by.  He told us that he remembered the package.  He had accepted it, and then (drum roll here……) THREW IT AWAY!  We were just speechless.  He didn’t offer any explanation.  When we told him the value of the meds, he said he would reimburse us.  But, our insurance will only cover one prescription, so we would have to pay full price for its replacement…..$1600!  In the end, he did reimburse us.  (We were amazed). 

At the end of our stay, we pulled up next to the dump station to empty our tanks.  We watched a guy drive up with his portable “blue boy”.  At campgrounds without drains at individual sites, a common practice is to take your blue boy to the dump station and run the contents into the hole using your sewer hose.  These dummies just opened the lid and dumped the stuff in the vicinity of the hole.  How gross!  It was just the worst way to end a horrible camping experience.

This is what the Blue Boy looks like….

After the campground from Hell, we joined Aluminapalooza, which was a fun event.  One night, however, someone knocked on our door in the middle of the night, yelling for us to go to a machine shed for shelter from an approaching tornado!  Thankfullly, it bypassed us.  From that memorable Memorial Day weekend, we started our RV road trip which was blessedly happy and problem-free for the rest of the 2019 summer  trip.  🙂


We had a couple over for a social-distancing cocktail hour.  I served my homemade hummus with slices of George’s French bread for an appetizer.

DINNER:  Shrimp mini casseroles.  I made them in little ramekins using a recipe from my Jacques Peppin cookbook – one of my favorites.  Side was a caprese salad using my fresh basil.  Nice! 

TGIF! (although it doesn’t matter…..)

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Sunny.  High 93

The air conditioning in the exercise room got fixed, so we were able to do regular chair yoga, not HOT yoga.  Wearing masks, though, is rough.  I’m afraid it is not too healthy to breathe in one’s expelled breath.  What to do?……

The morning whizzed by with yoga and water aerobics.  The afternoon was more quiet – both of us reading most of the day.  We watched a Mexican crew place the batterboards in preparation for laying the cement – for the house they are building behind us.  It is sweet – they bring their two young sons, who sit in the shade and help occasionally. 

This Facebook memory popped up from 2 years ago.  It is from under the English Channel – in the Chunnel.  We had been housesitting in SW England, and had a flight to Bordeaux, France for our next assignment.  We received an email from the airlines telling us that our flight had been canceled due to a traffic controllers’ strike.  The train was unreasonably expensive, so we took a bus.  A LONG bus-ride – 24 hours.  Here, the bus drove into a train-car, and then the “train” moved from England to France.  It was very interesting.  This is our goofy driver…

I know a lot of people have tossed their cookbooks and rely on recipes from the internet.  I have kept a few cookbooks that I dearly love, and searched through recipes last week, before grocery shopping.  I found this recipe that looked good, and tried it out tonight – see below

DINNER:  Kale frittata with roasted garbanzo beans.  Side was a French baguette.  The bakeries here in the Rio Grande Valley mostly offer sweet, Mexican pastries.  I have not found anywhere to buy good French bread, so I buy the “take and bake” loaves which turn out very well. 

Giving the Old Body a Workout

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Retama Village, in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Another scorcher.  Sunny.  High 98

Today I joined an online yoga class taught by the instructor who taught here in Retama BC (Before Coronavirus).  I did the class via zoom.  The teacher is bilingual and some of the other online students are Spanish-speaking, so she went back and forth between English and Spanish.  Really cute and interesting.

After yoga was 2 classes of water aerobics, so I was pretty whipped.  I also did laundry at the clubhouse, so made several back and forth walks in the blazing sun.   A good work-out day!

There wasn’t too much work accomplished on the lot behind us today.  They delivered a load of batterboards that will frame the forms for pouring concrete. 

DINNER:  I used up some more of the special morel mushrooms our daughter had sent us.  Based on a recommendation from my cooking guru brother, I served them sauteed in a bed of buttery pasta.  Excellent!  Sides were a romaine salad with surprisingly good tomatoes (often hard to find) and steamed peas. 

BOOK:  “Bertie Plays the Blues” by Allistair McCall Smith.  This is the author that wrote the African lady detective series.  Now back in his Scotland home, he has written a series of books about life in Edinburgh.  The books are actually a collection of his newspaper stories.  I feel like my vocabulary, punctuation, and grammar improve after I absorb some of his impeccable English writing…with a touch of Scottish.   5 stars out of 5.