Moving day!

LOCATION:  In our new casita in Retama Village.  Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Sunny and warm.  High 86

Whew!  I haven’t posted recently as we have been so crazy busy with moving.  We moved from a “deluxe coach house” with 480 square feet to a “casita” with 727 square feet, both in our Retama Village community.  A mansion! 

One of the best things about the house is the outdoor kitchen…

We have enjoyed 2 nights of beautiful sunsets on our west-facing screened-in porch.

There is still a lot to do, so we have boxes everywhere. 

While we are moving in, we still need to spend time cleaning the old house for prospective buyers.  It looks so vacant!

Meanwhile, kind neighbors have come over with cookies, plants,  and champagne! 

We went this afternoon to the supermarket to stock up for the week.  It was madness!  Shelves were empty and all the carts were being used.  We managed to survive.

Between moving and cleaning, I managed to get in a water aerobics class. 

DINNER:  Chicken thighs with pasta.  I browned the thighs in a LeCrueset pot with onion, garlic, artichoke hearts, and sun-dried tomatoes.  Then, I put the pot in the oven to continue to bake, about 30 minutes.  Once it was done, I served it over parmesan-coated spaghetti.  Not too bad!  Our new refrigerator is HUGE so I am enjoying have lots of storage. 

Adding some joy…..

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Windy.  Sunny.  High 86

We continue to box things up in preparation of the move.  I drove around the neighborhood collecting boxes from Christmas presents to use for packing.  We are storing the boxes in Joy untill we move.

I did a water aerobics class and it felt good to get in the exercise.

Then, an afternoon of running errands.  We checked out Best Buy and Home Depot, looking for the best deals on a TV and stackable washer/dryer for the new house.  Every place we went was hectic.

Then, on to Hobby Lobby.  I don’t like this store because of their political bent, but boy do they have cute things.  My goal was to buy some “Joy” decor with after-Christmas prices.  I scored!  I found these really nice dish towels and this little picture box that I will use as a catch-all tray for us to drop keys, etc into as we enter the trailer.  The bonus is that neither item appears too “Christmas-y”.  Yay! 

DINNER:  Shrimp and Chorizo with Crushed Croutons.  Side was steamed mixed vegetables.

This would be a great on-the-road meal as it is so easy to make, and only requires one pan for easy clean-up….

Shrimp and Chorizo with Crushed Croutons

4 T olive oil
4 oz diced chorizo (the hard, Spanish kind and not the Mexican kind)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound shrimp peeled
lemon juice
salt and pepper
1/2 c crushed croutons (make your own or cheat like I did and use store-bought kind)

Heat 2 T of the oil.  Add half the chorizo, garlic, and shrimp.  Cook only a few minutes until the shrimp is pink.   Transfer to a plate.  Repeat with the 2nd half of the oil, chorizo, garlic, and shrimp.  Return all to the skillet and mix.  Remove from heat.  Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper.  Toss.  Add parsley and croutons, and toss.  Can serve directly from the pan.  Easy-peasy! 

BOOK:  “Body Double” by Tess Gerritsen.  Another in this series that I have just gotten into.  A female detective works on strange cases.  4 stars out of 5

Merry Christmas and Joyous Holidays

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

Merry Christmas!  Without cold weather and snow, it does not seem too Christmas-y here, but we cannot complain! 

Santa brought George a T-shirt and a bottle of Japanese whiskey.  Santa ran out of yoga straps, but gave me an IOU for one.

We enjoyed our Chrismas breakfast casserole that I made last night (recipe below).

We spent a quiet afternoon, reading, napping, and boxing up a few things in preparation for the move.

We got a bit dressed up – George in his “Hawaiian tuxedo: and me in my Indian top, and headed over to our friends’ house for Christmas dinner.  They are the couple that we went to Hawaii with.  She is German and her sister and brother-in-law are visiting from Germany.  I’ve mentioned before that there are different types of houses in our community.  Our current house is called a “deluxe coach house” and is set up for people to mostly live in their RVs.  Our new house is called a “casita” with more square feet.  It has RV hook-ups, too, but most people live in their casita and use their RV as a guest house.  Our friends live in a “regular” house – without any RV hook-ups.  It has a beautiful, open floor-plan.  Here is our friend Rob dancing in the living room….

The kitchen is set up for parties. They are getting ready to serve

I wore my sparkling earrings and necklace, made by a lady here in Retama Village

For dinner, we enjoyed Thai lamb curry, with extra spices on the side for George and me.  After dinner, they brought out German and Austrian schnapps.  It was a fun evening.

Christmas Breakfast Casserole, Mexican-Style

I modified a traditional recipe to use ingredients I had on hand.

4 eggs, whipped in a separate bowl
1 green pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced
2 baked potatoes, diced
1 large link, jalapeno sausage, diced
2 green onions, diced.  Save green part for serving
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Chipotle pepper
Cayenne pepper
Chile pepper
Salt and pepper

Saute the peppers, onions, potatoes, and sausage.  Mix in with the whipped eggs, cheese, spices, salt, and pepper.  Place in a greased Pyrex casserole. This is best made the day before (which I did). 

If you make it ahead of time, take it out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking.   Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Sprinkle on green part of green onions when serving. 

Christmas Eve, our way

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

We are still adjusting to the time zone difference so slept in a bit.

I needed groceries after our 2-week trip in Hawaii, but did not want to brave the supermarket on Christmas Eve.  So, instead I went to our nearby Mexican meat market.  Wow!  It was a crazy, but happily so, madhouse.  The Mexicans like to eat really well during the holidays and were lined up about 30-people deep at the meat counter.  I bought some vegetables and meat, and skedaddled.  The prices here in the Rio Grande Valley are so good, especially compared to Hawaii.  Avocado:   Hawaii $5.00.  Here – $.49.  Mango:  Hawaii-$5.00.  Here $.59.  Cilantro:  Hawaii – $2.00.  Here – $.35.  Etc Etc

I scooted over to the liquor store to buy George’s Christmas present – some Japanese whiskey, then headed home, not wanting to venture out any more today.

In the afternoon, I made an eggbake to cook on Christmas morning.  It is a family tradition.  Later, I started cooking the French onion soup for tonight’s dinner.  It is pretty easy, but takes a long time. 

When it got dark, George made a nice fire in our fire pit.  I joined him, once tonight’s soup was in its last simmer. Our neighbors joined us for a chat.  Very nice!

DINNER:  French onion soup.   Very tasty

Our TV antenna is kaput, so we watched a Bing Crosby You-Tube, Best of Christmas shows.

French Onion Soup – from an online recipe that I modified/simplified:

4 red or yellow onions, peeled and sliced thin
4 T olive oil
2 T butter
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup dry vermouth (could substitute dry white wine)
6 cups beef or chicken stock (I used store-bought chicken stock plus turkey broth leftover from Thanksgiving)
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
croutons – store-bought or home-made
1.5 cup grated Gruyere cheese

In a heavy pot, heat 3 T of olive oil on medium heat.  Cook 20 minutes. Increase heat to medium high and add other tablespoon of oil and the butter, stirring 15 minutes.  Sprinkle with sugar and 1 tsp salt.  Cook another 15 minutes.  Add garlic.  Cook 1 minute.  Add vermouth to deglaze pan.  Add stock, bay leaves, and Italian seasoning.  Bring to simmer.  Cover, lower heat to low simmer and cook 30 minutes. 

To serve, remove bay leaves and ladle soup into individual bowls.   Cover with croutons.  Sprinkle (heavily) the guyere and lightly with Parmesan.  Put into heated oven and broil 10 minutes, or until brown. 

Aloha and good-bye to Hawai’i

LOCATION:  Somewhere over the Pacific Ocean

Today is our last day in Kauai.  We have been here 2 weeks – seems like the exact amount of time to spend here.  Unfortunately, we had to check out of the resort at 10:00 AM, so we scurried around in the AM packing and loading up the car.

We bade farewell to the resort through this Tunnel of Trees that is near.

As we were leaving the resort and driving toward the city (Lihue), a beautiful rainbow popped out. 

Due to the frequent light showers followed by sunshine, almost every day sprouts a rainbow.  So much so that the license plates’ emblem is a rainbow.

Our flight (the 8th rescheduled itinerary we have had for this trip) was scheduled to leave at 6:30 PM, so we had the day to kill.  The weather wasn’t cooperating….quite a bit of rain and cooler (73).  So, we went to the Kauai Museum and spent 2 surprisingly interesting hours there.

Then, on to lunch.  I wanted to go to a hole-in-the-wall Hawaiian restaurant and we found Mark’s Place with great reviews.  When we lived in Japan, one of my favorite foods was onigiri (honorable rice ball).  Children take these for their school lunch – sushi rice balls with something tasty inside.  The most popular and typical is the one filled with a sour plum.  The Hawaiians have taken this dish and converted it to their taste.  So George and I split one stuffed with SPAM!   Due to Covid, it was take-out only, so we ate in the car.

With a few more hours until we needed to get to the airport, we returned to Kauai Brewery for a final local beer. 

We got to the airport a little early for our Hawaiian Airlines flight to Honolulu.  Due to the Christmas rush, they were putting passengers on earlier flights so that they wouldn’t have a crunch later in the evening.  So, we arrived in Honolulu with 5 hours before our flight to Dallas.  We walked and walked and walked around the airport, then found a nice bar, sipped on some drinks, and had a light (but airport expensive) dinner.

We left Honolulu at 9:30 PM  and arrived in Dallas – 7 hours later  – at 9:00 AM Central Time.  We had to run to the gate to catch our last leg to McAllen.  Whew!  We made it! 

BOOK:  “The Good Girl” by Mary Kubica.  I enjoyed her other book so much (“Local Woman Missing”) that I read this one, too.  It is another thriller with a lots of twists and turns, about a girl that gets kidnapped.  4 stars out of 5

A botanical paradise on Kauai

LOCATION: The Point at Poipu Resort, Lihue, on the island of Kauai, Hawaii
WEATHER:  Warm.  Showers most of the day.  High 75

We got up early today in order to get to our scheduled 8:30 tour on the NE part of the island – Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Garden and Sculpture Park. 

This place is fabulous!  It was built in the 1980s by a wealthy couple from California.  They bought about 500 acres of what then looked like dry pasture land, and turned it into this botanical paradise and hardwood plantation.  They lived on the property for many years, and then donated it to this foundation. 

Our very informative volunteer tour guide drove us around for 3 hours. 

We learned about hundreds of plants, although I have forgotten most of the names already.  They were countless

Interspersed in the gardens are more than 200 sculptures that the owners commissioned.  They are tucked into interesting places all over.

The sculptures have clever names and designs. This one is “tea party” with a little girl (owners’ granddaughter) serving tea to a pet cat.

And this one features the owners when they were older…

During the tour, it started to rain, so we brought out our handy ponchos…

We saw the exterior of the owners’ house which is now used for special events.  Their swimming pool is fabulous

I especially loved the Japanese tea house, all set up for a tea ceremony, situated in a bamboo grove.

One of the highpoints was spotting some huge albatross who were nesting in the pine needles. They were not afraid of us and allowed us to approach for a close-up photo.   They like it here because it is so windy and they can use the path as their runway to take off and land.  They travel to Alaska to get their food.  They can go for several days before landing.  We watched some soar in the high winds.  Spectacular

Next door were some nene, Kauai’s state bird.  This pair hissed at us and chased us away, presumably from some eggs they were hiding.

For anyone coming to Kauai —-I highly recommend this tour.  Note that you must book it way ahead of time. Due to Covid, the number of tours is limited.  We also went to the nearby Kilauea Lighthouse, a popular spot for bird-watching.  The park was closed today so we saw it from afar.  If you are interested in attending a tour, you must book ahead. 

Back at our resort, we enjoyed one last game of ping pong and chess.  Needing to finish up the liquor, we had our last margaritas of the trip.  What hard work!

DINNER:  Since it is our last night, it is time to clean out the refrigerator!  The menu was arugula, tomato, and cucumber salad, then ramen with sauteed leek, garlic, ginger, mushrooms, and shrimp.  I used the chicken broth that I had made previously from rotisserie chicken bones.  The refrigerator is empty except what we will  need for breakfast tomorrow.  Well done! 

A trip to the fern grotto

LOCATION: The Point at Poipu Resort, Lihue, on the island of Kauai, Hawaii
WEATHER:  Warm.  Occasional showers.  High 78

We made a day trip up the eastern shore to the Wailua River for a boat excursion to the Smith Fern Grotto.  We had heard that this is a worthwhile trip.  We bought our tickets for the afternoon cruise, then headed to nearby Kapa’a for lunch at the Coconut Plantation shops/resort.  We ate at a BBQ place that has self-serve beer!  George was in Nirvana!

The boat took us up the river on a 1.5 hour ride.

During the trip, the crew entertained us with Hawaiian songs.

Then, they taught us (tried to teach us) hula dancing….

The grotto was a real jungle, full of huge bamboo, wild ginger, and other exotic plants

At the end, the original Smith owner’s granddaughter told us the history of the grotto.  You can see the hanging ferns behind her. 

And the crew sang us a Hawaiian wedding song, as many weddings are performed here.  A Hawaiian lady danced a traditional wedding hula, too.

Back to the condo to get fancied up for dinner.  This was our real splurge….sushi in the Stephenson (as in Robert Lewis Stephenson) sushi bar in the Grand Hyatt Hotel.  Someone had told us a secret about getting in, as reservations are booked up for months.  They told us to line up in front of the restaurant at 5:00, to be the first walk-ins to snag a seat at the bar when it opens at 5:30.  It worked!

This place had been highly recommended, and it did not disappoint.  Cheers!

We shared different kinds of sushi, including yellowtail, ikura (salmon roe), and striped marlin. 

I was very happy! 

Mahalo for another beautiful day in Kauai

LOCATION: The Point at Poipu Resort, Lihue, on the island of Kauai, Hawaii
WEATHER:  Warm.  Occasional showers.  High 74

Today we explored more of the NW coast, much drier than the east coast, from where the trade wins come.  We stopped to admire the statue of Captain Cook who discovered Kauai in the 1700s.  The plaque says that he and his crew left behind disease and fleas!  😦 

At one of our stops, we watched the beautifully-colored chickens.  This guy was burrowing in the ground, in search of some cooler dirt underneath.

The few restaurants in the area were closed for Sunday, so we ended up back in the Kauai Island Brewing Company.  3rd time there!  Since it is Sunday, we all ordered Bloody Marys. 

Another tip for anyone coming here: Buy/reserve excursion tickets way ahead of time. I tried to book a helicopter or small airplane ride today, and everything is booked until January.

Back at the condo, we enjoyed our views.  Here is Rob taking a picture of us standing on our balcony.  You can see how close we are to the ocean. 

Then, he took one of us….

The people here are very concerned about Covid.  It locked down their island for about a year, and they don’t want that to recur.  Tourism is by far their primary business/income.  I saw this road sign:

                      More Aloha; Less Covid 19.  Get vaccinated!

And these signs are everywhere.  People (locals as well as tourists) are very compliant. (Mahalo means thank you).

In the afternoon, Rob and George played  a rousing game of ping pong. 

DINNER:  Shrimp pasta and salad:  I sauteed some onion and garlic, then added the shrimp for just a minute or so until pink.  To that, I added cooked thin spaghetti, juice of a lemon, and a few dollops of cream cheese.  I stirred it together to make a light creamy texture.  To serve, top with slices of smoked salmon.  Quite good.

BOOK:  “The Apprentice” by Tess Gerritsen.  This is another series I am starting.  This one is about a irrasacible female detective who solves gruesome crimes.  4 stars out of 5.

A new hula dancer!

LOCATION: The Point at Poipu Resort, Lihue, on the island of Kauai, Hawaii
WEATHER:  Warm.  High 80.

We went to the Saturday farmers’ market again and picked up some veggies.  This vendor was selling taro, the typical Hawaiian starch popular here. 

This stall had a big pile of coconuts that they slashed open with machetes – to either eat the fruit or to just drink the milk from an inserted straw.

Then, on to lunch – Kauai Brewery in the old downtown Lihue.  The Kauai rooster is their symbol on their colorful beer can labels. This is the second of the 2 breweries we have visited on the island.  Both have great food and beers.  We shared a burger and fries.  Not very Hawaiian, but good!

Afterwards we drove to one of the island’s nicest waterfalls – Wailua Falls. You can barely see the rainbow created from the cascading water…

After an afternoon nap, George and I walked over to a park near the Grand Hyatt Hotel. Even though there are dire warning signs, people jump off these cliffs into the water.

Wandering back through the Hyatt grounds, we saw this couple posing for their wedding pictures.

We decided to sit at one of the Hyatt’s patio bars to watch the sunset. 

On our way back, we found these lais and I became a hula dancer!

DINNER:  Cauliflower-crusted pizza and salad. 

The full moon reflected on the ocean in front of our condo. Beautiful!

After dinner, we played cards.  Irene and Rob are trying to teach us a game.   We are slow learners, it seems. 

Fascinating sea turtles

LOCATION: The Point at Poipu Resort, Lihue, on the island of Kauai, Hawaii
WEATHER:  Warm.  High 80.

As we were watching the sun rise, the skies opened up and it just poured.  The nice thing about these showers is that they don’t last long.  Fifteen minutes later, full sunshine. 

We had a slower day today, as we have been going full tilt every day.  We walked down to “our” beach which is next to Shipwreck Bay, in front of the Grand Hyatt Hotel.  This is one of the best places on the island to watch the huge sea turtles. This is where they like to swim…

I stood there mesmerized for about an hour. I don’t know how they manage to not get battered onto the rocks.  They pop up periodically for air.  Two seemed to be friends, and swam together.

We looked for whales, too, but didn’t see any. Some have been spotted by other people in front of our resort.

Note to anyone coming to Kauai — book your dinner reservations way in advance. Due to staff shortages (like everywhere), it is hard to get into restaurants for dinner (not so much lunch). We want to go to a nice place the night before we leave, and spent some time today searching for availability. None….. 😦

Suggested fine-dining restaurants – (to book before you arrive) …..

*Stephenson’s and Tide Pools (in Grand Hyatt)

* Beach House


George and Rob relaxed with some games of ping pong.  George won all.  Then, they sat on our balcony and played chess.  Rob won all.  Fair trade!

We went to an upscale restaurant (Merriman’s) for their (inexpensive-ish) happy hour.  We wanted to be adventursesome, and tried their smoked taro hummus.  Taro by itself is sort of like bland paste.  This hummus, however, was good.

They have a “crudo” of the day, meaning raw fish served poke-style.  Today’s was ono (wahoo).  It, too, was tasty. Served with sweet potato chips

Back at the condo, I fixed dinner. We watched people below swimming in the pool at sunset. Pretty sky!

DINNER: Steak stir-fry. I sauteed leftover steak, cut into bits plus a lot of vegetables: mushrooms, onions, green onions, bell pepper, leek, ginger, and bok choy. Since I don’t have soy sauce, I substituted some Asian salad dressing for the sauce. Turned out well. Served with Japanese chasoba – soba noodles made with green tea. Quite tasty!