Almost a tsunami?

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Super windy.  High 84

STEPS:  9998
CLASSES:  chair yoga and 2 water aerobics

I did my regular daily walk.  My route takes me by the WALL under construction.  Each day it grows a few ugly feet.

The wind was super windy.  When I went to the pool for water aerobics, I saw that most of the pool furniture had blown over.  There was only one other swimmer with me (of course, a fellow Minnesotan!)  She left after one class, but I persevered.  Even though the weather was warm, the combination of ice cold swimming pool water and high winds made for a bit of discomfort.

As I was soaking in the hot tub after the classes to warm up, our friends stopped by in search of me.  They had just heard from the resort where we were going to stay in Kaui, Hawaii that Kaui has closed down for tourism and our trip is off.

After a quick shower and a change of clothes, we went over to their house to confer and to figure out Plan B.  Options included postponing the trip to spring, but the rooms are mostly already booked up;  postpone until winter 2021 or early 2022;  or go in a few weeks to Maui, which is still accepting tourists.  After much discussion, we decided to try to go to the same Kaui resort in April or so (hopefully post-vaccine) if there are nice rooms available,  or next year.  I can’t say I’m surprised, and I don’t blame the Kaui government at all.  Who would want an army of germy tourists coming to an  island that is relatively Covid-free?  Now we have to wait to see what will happen to our airline tickets.  I think if we cancel, we get a voucher.  If the airline cancels, then we get our money back. 

From there, we sped back to our house to prep for a get-together with some other friends.  They just bought a new house in Retama Village and wanted to show it to us over happy hour.  They have been living in their large motor home and small  coach house.  This “regular” house came on the market and they bought it.  This happens quite a bit here in Retama…..people start out in a coach house, then move up to a port home or house.  There were just 6 people at the get-together, so we felt pretty comfortable Covid-wise.  They are part of my Spanish class, and are wonderful people.  We enjoy being with them a lot.

I saw this cute post on Facebook…. “No wonder the internet is slow.  Everyone is online and tweeting.”

It really looks like our wires down here, as there are tons of birds. Many congregate near us, including bats, at sunset.

We returned for dinner.  Nothing spectacular – leftover lentil stew with a French baguette. 

Winding down 2020

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:   Quite nice, but super windy.  High 80

STEPS:  10,560
CLASSES:  Chair yoga and 2 water aerobics

I squeezed in a much-needed haircut this morning between all of the classes.  The beauty shop is super conscientious about Covid prevention.  It is always amazing to me how much hair I have when I get it cut.  There was a lot on the floor!

The afternoon was quiet as George was playing chess and I read.  It was too windy for him to do his touch-up painting he wants to do on our tiny house.

These Facebook memories popped up from 5 years ago.  We drove our Airstream all the way through Baja, Mexico to Cabo San Lucas.  Then, we rented an AirB&B with our daughters and stayed in this wonderful house near the beach for a week.  We watched whales swimming by from our deck. Great memories!

Everyone is fed up with 2020 and are hoping that we turn a corner in 2021.  This cute billboard (only in Texas!) says it all….

DINNER:  The last few Jacques Pepin meals have been disappointing, but this one was spectacular!


2 T  basil pesto (Jacques made his own;  I used some we bought at a Harvest Host farm where we camped this fall)

8 large sea scallops (I couldn’t find any here, so used ahi tuna steaks instead, which Jacques suggested)

The rice was actually a risotto.  I deviated a bit from his recipe, using the technique/recipe I usually use for risotto, but adding more mushrooms than usual.

2 T olive oil
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup white or rose wine
1 tsp thyme
1/2 cup diced white button mushrooms
3/4 cup Arborio rice
3 cup chicken broth – keep hot
3/4 tsp pepper
1 T butter
2 T parmesan
basil for garnish

In a big pot, saute the onion, mushrooms, and thyme in the olive oil for 2-3 minutes, then add the rice and saute a few minutes more, until the rice starts to turn a bit brown.  Add the wine and stir until absorbed.  Then, add 1 cup broth.  Stir.  Keep the broth hot and add a cup at a time after it absorbs.   Stir continuously.  Continue the process for about 15-20 minutes.  The rice should be plump, having absorbed all the broth.  You may have leftover broth.

Meanwhile, slice the scallops (or fish) almost in half, keeping it still intact, like a book.  Stuff each with about 2 tsp of the pesto.  Heat oil in the skillet and brown the scallops (fish).  My tuna steaks were still a bit frozen, which resulted in browned outside and still rare inside, which is the way we like tuna. 

Right before serving,  add the butter and Parmesan to the risotto.  To serve, divide the rice among four plates.  Arrange 2 scallops (or a small tuna steak) on top of the rice.  Sprinkle with shredded fresh basil leaves. 

Yum!  We paired it with a light red wine. 

Black snow!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Very nice.  High 80, but very windy

STEPS:  10,976
CLASSES:  Chair yoga and 2 (freezing) water aerobics

The wind was something else today.  The ground looked a bit like a hurricane had come through, as the palm fronds were everywhere. 

This is sugar cane harvest season.  The farmers burn the excess fiber on the stalks before they harvest the cane.  The wind blew the black ash right toward us.  The fields are less than a mile away. It looked like black snow!  While we were doing water aerobics, the ash fell all around us, and on our bodies.  Some of the pieces of ash were so big that they looked like black birds falling into the pool.  This is a photo of the nearby WALL and the fires in the cane fields.

One sad thing about this process……the undocumented people like to hide in the sugar cane fields.  A day before the burning, the farmers use their loud speakers and announce that they are going to burn the fields.  They tell them to get out of the fields and tell them that they are not Border Patrol.  Unfortunately, some of the undocumented people think it is a trick, and stay in the fields.  A few die.  My heart bleeds….

Speaking of Mexico, this Facebook memory popped up today.  It is from a camping trip down to Baja, Mexico a few years ago.  Lovely to camp right on the beach.

Another Spanish class in the afternoon made the day fly by.

DINNER:  Another one from Jacques…


For the salmon:

12 oz raw salmon (I used smoked salmon instead as I had some to use up)
2.5 T chopped red onion
1 T  chopped chives
1 T capers, drained
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

For the cauliflower salad…

10 oz cauliflower florets
1 T olive oil
1 T chopped red onion
1 T Dijon mustard
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Garnish:  2 hard-boiled eggs and 2 T fresh basil leaves

For the salmon – combine everything together and refrigerate (no more than 30 minutes)
For the salad – Bring 3/4 cup water to a boil.  Add the cauliflower, bring back to boil, cover, and boil 4-5 minutes.  Drain any remaining water and chop the cauliflower coarsely. 

Jacques used a metal ring to plate the food, so his turned out beautifully.  I just put a layer of the cauliflower on the plate, then a layer of the salmon.  I topped it with thin slices of egg and the shredded basil.

I did not like this dish.  To me, there were too many competing flavors.  George, who bless his soul eats everything,  liked it and cleaned his plate. 

BOOK:  “The Last Train to Key West” by Chantel Cleeton.  This is book #3 of a trilogy that I learned aboutg from a website of travel and food lovers.  It was about 3 couples whose lives intertwine in Key West, culminating in one of the worst hurricanes the Keys have ever had.  5 stars out of 5.

Sunday with a good book

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Perfect!  Sunny and warm

We deviated from our traditional eggs and grits for Sunday breakfast as we have a lot of egg bake left over from Christmas brunch. 

We are enjoying beautiful weather, and it looks like good swimming weather for the next week. 

This Facebook memory popped up from a year ago when we were housesitting in Johannesburg, South Africa.  While we were visiting Soweto, home of Nelson Mandela and Benjamin Tutu, I decided to get my hair cut.  The “beauty shop” was actually a ship container.  The salon owner had never cut a white person’s hair, so he was quite intrigued.  He did a good job!  While traveling, it is always a gamble whether the hair cut will be decent or not.

George’s friend came over to play chess.  They took the chess board over to Joy, our Airstream, so I relaxed ALL afternoon by reading a book.  Sometimes I can get so wrapped up with a book that I start and finish the book, all in one sitting.  That is what I did today.  Truly a lazy day!

DINNER:  The last of the smoked Thanksgiving turkey.  George re-smoked it on the smoker to infuse it with more smoke while we warmed it up.  Side was from Jacques Pepin….


1 8-oz can lima beans, drained
2 large eggs
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 T butter
2 T grated Gruyere or Emmenthaler cheese

Put all the ingredients except the butter and cheese in a food processor.  Process 15-20 seconds. 

Use the butter to coat a small gratin dish.  Pout the bean mixture into the dish and sprinkle with the cheese. 

Bake the gratin for 20-30 minutes until it is nicely browned on top.

This was easy-peasy and we liked it.  Jacques says you can use any type of bean for this. 

BOOK:  “The Body in the Castle Well” by Martin Walker.  This is one of my favorite series, about a French policeman Bruno.  The stories take place in the Dordogne, France where had a housesitting assignment.  This particular book is about a mystery that takes places in the former home/castle of Josephine Baker, the famous black singer.  We actually visited the castle when we were there.  In addition to solving mystery crimes, Bruno cooks up wonderful French meals.  The downside of reading these books is that it makes me want to snack while I am reading.  Delightful!  5 stars out of 5

Boxing Day!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Another perfect day.  Cool in the AM; warm and sunny in the PM

STEPS:  10,153
CLASSES:  Too cold to swim

Family and frends in Canada, England, and other countries celebrate Boxing Day.  We didn’t do any celebrating…..just recovering from too much of everything on Christmas Day.  I got my hike in and then did a lot of walking around the neighborhood. 

This Facebook memory from 3 years ago popped up today.  George was a happy guy celebrating Boxing Day with this cutie-pie in the US Virgin Islands, where we were doing a housesitting assignment.   Fun times!

George putzed around, adding more mulch to our plantings.  Everything is looking good.  We noticed, however, that our neighbors’ plumeria and poinsettia got nipped a bit when it got down to freezing the other night. 

DINNER:  We tried to eat healthy and light tonight.  I used two of Jacques Pepin’s recipes….


Sauce –

1 cup walnut pieces
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3 garlic cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 jalapeno seeded and diced
1 T apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup V-8 juice
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro

Cod –

4 codfish fillets (I used the last of the drum/sheepshead that George caught awhile ago)
1 T olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

For the sauce:  Spread the walnuts on a cookie sheet and toast at 400 for 7-9 minutes, until lightly browned.  Put the walnuts and remaining sauce ingredients, except for the cilantro, in the blender.  Blend until creamy.  Put in a bowl, add the cilantro, and refrigerate until serving time.

For the fish:  Line a cookie sheets with aluminum foil.  Arrange the fillets on the lined sheet, spoon the olive oil on top of them, and turn the fillets over so that they are oiled on both sides.  Sprinkle the fillets with the salt and roast for about 10 minutes.

Spoon 2-3 T of the sauce into the center of each of 4 dinner plates and place a cooked fillet on top of each.  Add another dab of sauce to the top of each fillet and serve.

This was very good and was a nice presentation…

I had a lot of fresh, baby spinach to use up, left from the spinach-stuffed mushrooms I had made for Christmas.  Jacques came to the rescue….


3 T olive oil
2 T sliced garlic
1 # spinach
1/3 cup raisins (I omitted this ingredient as I do not like sweet stuff in my savory food!!!)
1/3 cup diced pimientos
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat.  Add the garlic and saute 15 seconds.  Add the spinach and press it down until wilted.  Add everything else and saute 2 minutes. 

Easy and very tasty. 

After dinner, we had a nice bonfire in the firepit.  Perfect weather for it!

A very Merry Christmas!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Cold (32) in the AM, warming beautifully to a sunny 70 in the PM

STEPS:  I’m not even going to talk about exercise today (or lack thereof!!!)

Santa must have arrived during the night, as we had some nice packages awaiting us.  Due to the possible overnight freeze, we had brought in the pots of basil and pansies, which added to the festive look.

Yesterday, George biked over to the state park across the street, and cut a branch from a tree to create our Charlie Brown Christmas tree.  I’m sure that was not legal!  He decorated it with a branch of red bouganvillea snipped from the neighbor’s bush.

AND…..he found this bag of oranges on the street, so brought them home.  We had a neighborhood Secret Santa who dropped off gift bags at people’s houses.  We think this bag must have fallen off Santa’s golf cart as he drove around the neighborhood!

I opened several gifts from George.  Mmmmm….most are suspicious items that George has been wanting…..a fire pit, a portable table for the grill to use while camping, and a hand vac!  (George loves to vacuum)

Santa brought us a case of wine from Naked Wines, the wine club to which we belong.

And Santa gave George a bottle of single malt whiskey.  I might even taste it too, on a cold evening, dreaming about Scotland!

Some friends came over for Christmas brunch, bearing Bloody Mary fixings and fruit.  I served my world-famous egg bake, which I had made yesterday.  So nice and easy to pop in the oven before the guests arrive.  With the egg bake, we sipped on mimosas.  So decadent! 

We had a lovely time. 

Later in the day, I donned my new necklace and earrings that a resident here custom-made for me, to wear to the Christmas dinner party. 

Loaded down with champagne, wine, gyoza, and stuffed mushrooms, we went to our friends’ house for Christmas dinner..  This is the first time in many, many  years that we have had a Christmas dinner with friends.  It was really special.  There were just 3 couples, and all of us have shared a safe bubble for the last month or so.  We enjoyed my appetizers with champagne and with kir royale. 

The host made beautiful, and delicious Beef Wellington.

The hostess served lots of yummy steamed vegetables to accompany the meat. 

We didn’t stick around for dessert as we were stuffed, and wanted to get home to watch a special “Call the Midwife” on PBS.

A reader asked me about the size of my egg bake pan.  I used a glass Pyrex 8 X 11 pan.  I ended up with extra egg bake, so cooked the extras in separate ramekins.

The reader (whoever you are – thanks for following me!)….asked me for my recipe for gyoza. As I said yesterday, I experimented by baking rather than frying them, to help cut down on the calories and grease.  They turned out well.

1# ground pork
3 garlic cloves, finely diced
2 tsp ginger, minced
1 T soy sauce
2 carrots, finely diced
5 green onions, finely diced
8 oz can water chestnuts, finely diced (could substitute celery)
1 tsp sesame oil
red pepper flakes (optional)
Wonton wrappers

I cooked the pork first and drained it.  (My recipe wasn’t clear whether to cook the pork ahead of time, or not, but I wanted to make sure it was well-cooked, and wanted to drain the excess fat).  To the cooked pork, I added all the other ingredients.  Place a heaping teaspoon of filling in the center of the wonton..  Brush eggwhite on the sides of the wonton, and seal to make a crescent.  Spritz with oil.  Place on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet.  Bake at 400 for 7 minutes, or until brown. 

Dipping sauce….

I made up my own — soy sauce, a touch of wasabi, sake, and a pinch of sugar. 

This recipe makes about 50 wontons.  Needless to say, I have a LOT of leftover filling!  I froze the rest of the wonton wrappers for the future. 

Prepping for Christmas!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Nippy in the AM.  Warmer – 60 in PM

STEPS:  8502
CLASSES:  None offered; too cold to swim

I almost didn’t do my morning walk as the wind from the Northwest was fierce, but I decided to go for it..  My last leg was directly into the wind and I was almost bent over.  Interesting – I saw one neighbor out in a T-shirt, shorts, and barefoot.  Another neighbor had a heavy-duty furry parka on with mittens and heavy snow pants.  I guess it depends on where you come from?

Back home, with a nice hot coffee, I planned my day.  It would be a day of cooking/prepping for Christmas Day brunch and dinner.  

I spent the afternoon making an egg bake for tomorrow’s brunch.  A really good and easy recipe.  These are so nice as you can make ahead and then bake the next morning.  (Recipe below).

I also made the filling for stuffed mushrooms caps.  I will finish them up tomorrow before we go to our friends’ house for dinner.

Copying my friend Tony Scott, who experimented with a new recipe, I did a trial run of the gyosa (Japanese wontons) today.  I made a filling with ground pork and lots of finely diced veg.  The recipe calls for deep-frying them, but I experimented (George is a great guinea pig) with baking them instead.  They turned out nicely.  I will assemble them tomorrow before the get-together.  Oops – just one left!

We saw the Christmas star a few nights ago, and people are still out watching for it every night.  A neighbor got a good photo of it…

We had a nice telephone conversation with our daughter, and many, many Facebook Christmas messages.  So nice! 

DINNER:  After cooking all day, I wasn’t in the mood to make anything complicated for dinner.  We started with salads and steamed asparagus.  Main course was thin spaghetti in a cream sauce with smoked salmon and capers.  Very nice and light. 


Recipe says it serves 4 people, but I would say it is enough for 8!

1# pork sausage
6 eggs
1/3 cup milk
4 green onions
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
20 oz frozen hash browns, thawed
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves minced

Cook sausage..  Remove and drain to large bowl.  Reserve about 1 T grease.  To the grease, add the onion and peppers, and saute about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and saute 2 more minutes.  Pour veg mix in with sausage.  Add hash browns and 1.5 cup cheese. 

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, milk, salt and pepper.  Add to hash brown mix.  Pour into a greased pan.  Top with remaining cheese.  Cover with foil.  Refrigerate overnight.

When ready to cook – take out of the refrigerator 1-2 hours ahead of time.  Bake 30 minutes at 375.  Remove foil and cook 15 more minutes.  Sprinkle with green onions. 

Sprucing up the tiny house

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Beautiful.  Sunny.  High 83

STEPS:  11,958
CLASSES:  Chair yoga and 2 water aerobics

On my morning walk,  I saw the ever-watchful dog awaiting his master.  The master must have been running late today, as the dog was looking a bit forlorn and it was a bit later than normal.  I sure hope he comes!

While I was busy with my exercise classes, George caulked some “needy” areas on the outside of the house…

Later in the day, he switched to exterior touch-up painting.  He just can’t sit still….

We did Spanish class a day early due to Christmas.  It was such a nice day that we held the class outdoors, on the patio next to our clubhouse.  My Christmas present to my students was no homework for next class!

My friend decorated her agave plant with Christmas ornaments.  So festive!

Some neighbors invited us over for an outdoor dinner.  They have a “tiny house” like ours but have added a nice pergola on the driveway which gives them lovely outdoor space.  We ate taco soup and chips with hot queso dip.  All very tasty…..but probably full of calories!

Rushing around for Christmas

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Beautiful!  Sunny.  High 80

STEPS:  10,642
CLASSES:  Chair yoga and 2 water aerobics

On my morning walk, I spotted the always-alert dog awaiting his master.  His head was turned in the direction from which the man comes.  A lot of vehicles travel along the road (mostly Border Patrol and Wall construction trucks).  Somehow though, the dog recognizes which vehicle is his master’s.  As I was walking near the dog, he perked up.  I looked behind me.  About a half mile away came a  car.  The dog jumped up and trotted joyfully toward the car.  I wonder how he recognizes the sound of his master’s car motor?  So heart-warming!

The morning was crazy hectic.  After chair yoga, I had to go to Office Depot to print out more Spanish class pages.  Then, to the supermarket to buy some last-minute vegetables for Christmas meals.  It was super busy.  The parking lot was really full.  I made it back to Retama Village, but a bit late for water aerobics.  What is all this rushing about during retirement???

While I was out and about, George decided to wash all the windows and screens.  He likes to keep busy.  How lucky I am to have him like projects like this!

This Facebook memory popped up today from 6 years ago.  This is from Day #1 of the 3-day wedding of our daughter in India.  In the photo are George and I, our two daughters, and the groom.

A friend posted this photo of the place we hope to visit next spring – Newfoundland – to see the icebergs calving.  Fingers crossed that we can do this!

DINNER:  Hamburgers over the fire pit grill, hash browns, and this broccoli relish from Jacques Pepin:


3/4 pound broccoli stems
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp Asian hot chili oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp finely chopped jalapeno
1 T finely minced fresh mint

Jacques says he likes the stems better than the broccoli florets, so invented this recipe.  First you have to peel the fibrous exterior of the broccoli stems.  Put the stems in a bowl and toss with the salt.  Let stand 30 minutes – 1 hour, then add all the other ingredients. Mix well before serving. 

I thought it was just so-so, and the peeling was pretty tedious. 

A Day of Treats!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Another gorgeous day.  Sunny, high 80

STEPS:  11,545
CLASSES:  Chair yoga and 2 water aerobics

On my morning walk, I spotted an opposum just sitting along the road.  I think he must have been sick or rapid, as usually they scurry away in the bushes when they see a human. 

We are trying to grow jasmine and other vines along our back fence to add some privacy, once the spec house sells.  One plant that is doing fairly well is a passion fruit vine.    We have just one flower, but it is beautiful!  What a treat to see this! 

I had never eaten passion fruit before our housesitting assignment in South Africa last year.  In fact, the Facebook memory popped up today.  A year ago, I had taken a photo of the contrast between extreme poverty and obscene excessive wealth that we observed  a lot in Johannesburg. 

The house where we had our assignment had huge passion fruit vines.  Each day we ate 3 or 4 fruits that were perfectly ripe.  What a treat!  Maybe our little vine will produce some fruit some time. 

I taught another Spanish class in the afternoon.  The students are putting phrases together to form sentences.  We are practicing ordering in a restaurant.  They are doing well.

Another treat — We got a package in the mail from my aunt and uncle in Alberta, Canada.  She made us some home-made fruit cake.  We can’t wait to try it!  Thanks, Aunt Martha!!!

I went over to a neighbor’s house to look at some necklaces she is custom-making me to wear on  Christmas.  They are beautiful.  I am anxious to see the finished product.  This is a real treat to myself!

After sunset, we drove to an open field that faces the southwest to look for the Christmas star, where Jupiter and Saturn align.  It was a bit cloudy, but the clouds separated enough for us to see it.  What a treat!

DINNER:  Another Jacques Pepin recipe.  This one, however, disappointed a bit….


6 large eggs
2 T olive oil
2 medium onions sliced
4 tsp chopped garlic
3/4 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
14-oz can tomatoes
2/3 cup grated Swiss (Gruyere or Emmentaler)  or mozzarella

Boil the eggs.  Let cool, peel, and slice into wedges.  Arrange them in a gratin dish or baking dish. 

Heat the oven to 400.  Heat the oil and saute the onion and garlic.  Then, add the thyme, pepper, salt and tomatoes, crushing the tomatoes as they cook.  Bring to a boil and boil gently 5 minutes.

Pour the onion and tomato mixture over the eggs in the gratin dish and sprinkle the cheese on top.  Bake 10 minutes.  Then, turn on the broiler and broil another 2-3 minutes to brown the cheese.

I don’t know if the tomato was off or whether it was the taste of the thyme, but something was a little “funky”.    A bit disappointing. 

Side was steamed asparagus.  For some reason, asparagus is ridiculously inexpensive right now – less than a dollar for a big bunch – so we are buying and eating a lot!