Projects….then party!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Beautiful.  High 75

The weather was perfect for pickleball, so we played for two hours – not too hot yet, and no wind.  By the last half hour, I was on my last leg. 

At 10:00, it was still too cool to have the water aerobics class, so I went on my own at noon when it hit 70.  I had the pool to myself.  Nice!

In May, our friends and we are going to spend a few days together on the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky after they do a river cruise.  She and I started panicking today as we realized that we will be there at the same time as the Kentucky Derby.  Good and bad – we can see Churchill Downs ready for the event, but hotels are sure to be getting filled up.  I found an AirB&B outside of town, and conveniently located within walking distance of the Maker’s Mark Distillery, that is a barn conversion with a large parking lot for Joy.  Next is to find some campgrounds before and after our AirB&B stay with our friends.  It was a relief to find this one!  Apparently, the Trail gets quite busy, and soon we need to start booking distillery tours, too. 

While I was busy on the computer working and fretting, George finished up one project and started the next.  He repaired and painted around some gutters.

Next he refinished the top of our outdoor kitchen/bar top.  It looks so nice and shiny!

I had to move all my flowers off the bar for the work to be done.

With all that under our belts, we picked up our British/German couple friends and went to the mall where there is a Yard House Bar with hundreds of beers on tap.  Uh-oh!  Post-Christmas shopping.  We drove around for more than 30 minutes to find a parking space.  Inside, the mall was packed with shoppers.  A  lot of Mexican license plates in the parking lot…a real boost to our economy here.  And…shoppers were not just looking, they were buying.  Guess they don’t know we are in a recession.

The Yard House interior was loud and over air-conditioned, so we found a nice table outside.  The weather was perfect for it.  George and I shared a seared ahi sashimi platter…

While they had poke nachos, made with ahi and fried wonton chips…

DINNER:  We only ate half the ahi at the bar, so with the second half I made our dinner….I sauted some onions, garlic, ginger, bits of prosciutto, and peas.  Meanwhile, I cooked some ramen and made a veggie broth.  To serve, I put the ramen aned broth in a bowl, covered with the saute mix, and then topped with the (still raw) ahi.  Sprinkled with sesame seeds.  George paired it with some hot sake’.  All very oishi.  (and a good way to use up some excess veg).

George and his projects….Me, and my planning….

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

Pickleball was called off due to the high winds.  To get some exercise, I did two classes of water aerobics and walked back and forth to the clubhouse several times.  One guy that sits outside on the street where I walk teased me that I am wearing out Mallard Drive. 

I did about 4 hours of summer trip planning using the clubhouse wifi.  I am totally re-doing the route.  Exhausting!

Meanwhile, George finished the paver project.  It looks nice, with the sun making interesting designs through the fence…

Then, he started his next project – painting the inside of our screen porch.  He can’t keep still!

To relax, he played a game of pool with our British friend, and then we all had sundown drinks on the freshly-painted porch.

DINNER:  Tikki masala over rice.  I added sauteed onion, bell peppers, jalapeno pepper, and garlic to the sauce, along with (STILL) leftover Thanksgiving turkey bits.  Served it over rice.

Pavers and planning

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Quite nice but very windy.  High 71

I played pickleball for about 1.5 hours….extremely poorly.  It is evident when I play badly as the other players let me have extra chances at serves…..I can feel their pity.  Then the wind came up, and I couldn’t even whack the ball over the net, into the wind.  So, I gave up for the day.

George worked steadily on the paver project.  He is almost finished.  He spread layers of sand on top of the pavers to sift into the cracks. 

I spent another good 2 hours in the clubhouse, working on summer plans.  A new twist is that we may go to Kentucky to do the Bourbon Trail with some friends on our way up to Minnesota.  Just a slight detour! 

My flowers are really liking this sunshine and cool nights…

DINNER:  Shrimp fajitas.  For the filling mix, I sauted bits of salami (leftover from charcuterie platter), red and green bell peppers, jalapeno pepper, and onions.  I added the shrimp at the last minute.  We topped the fajitas with green onion, avocado, and Cotija cheese.  Muy bueno!

Time to think about summer plans!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Quite nice.  High 72

Only 2 students came to my Basic Beginner line dance class, but that was ok.  Hopefully, attendance will pick up next week.  I participated in two more classes after the one I taught – a nice workout.

George and I went to Michael’s craft store to get a picture matted and framed.  It is a print that we won at the art gallery on our cruise.  It has a lot of orange in it, so should go nicely with the living room decor.  From Michael’s, we went to Home Depot where George bought the final 2 pavers for his project.

He is working so hard on laying these pavers next to our shed.  It is looking good….

I spent a few hours using the clubhouse’s wifi seriously starting our 2023 camping trip planning.  It is almost overwhelming!  I use a paper atlas, my Maps app, and a list of recommendations provided by friends and fellow Airstreamers.  We plan to go to Minnesota, then across to upstate New York where we will join our Nova Scotia friends.  We will spend some time together in Quebec and Labrador.  From there, the summer will be mostly Maine, Vermont, and New York.  Then, we will head west through Canada to Winnipeg where we think we will park Joy for a few days, and fly to Grande Prairie to see my aunt and uncle.  Back in Winnipeg, we will pick up Joy and head south to the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado.  We will mosey around Colorado for awhile, then hit Santa Fe in New Mexico on our way back.  We plan to start this journey in mid-April, and return early October.  Whew!

Each Tuesday afternoon, a local man comes with his truck to sell fruits and vegetables.  He drives around our village in his noisy truck honking and honking to let people know he has arrived.  Today I bought some local grapefruit from him – the kind that doesn’t look very good on the outside, but is juicy and sweet inside.

Back home, we both needed to relax a bit.  George tried the Japanese whiskey that Santa brought him.  (Santa knew that I want to use the empty bottle as decor once George finishes it.)

DINNER:  Turkey orzo.  When will we ever finish the leftover Thanksgiving turkey?  Side was  broccoli in cheese sauce.  I have enough cheese left from the Christmas Eve party to last us a year, I think!

Field Trip!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Quite nice.  Sunny and high 70

Time to undecorate!  It only took a few minutes to put a few things away, and to rearrange the furniture.  The potted plants were happy to be returned outside to the sun.  Christmas is a wrap!

George continued working on his paver project.  There is a bald spot where the grass won’t grow at the entrance of the shed.  He is clearing the roots, leveling the area, and putting down the pavers.  A lot of work, but he enjoys it!

The highlight of my day was a trip to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Valle.  Five of us went early and had lunch in a nice Mexican restaurant.  We were the only gringas there.  The food was good, and of course, HUGE portions.  I ate off the kids’ menu, and all I can say is that those kids must have  big appetites!

  One of the ladies in our community organized this “field trip” which included a tour guided by one of the missionary nuns.  The basilica is one of the largest in the USA and brings in 20,000 people on weekends for mass, both in English and Spanish.  People believe that miracles can happen here.  The nun told us that busloads of people come from Houston, Dallas, and Corpus Christi on a regular basis. 

The grounds (65 acres in a large metropolitan area) are very nice…

The basilica is decorated beautifully for Christmas.  The nun said they always use fresh flowers – poinsettias for Christmas, lilies for Easter, etc. 

Then she took us outside to see a mural of Jesus, whose eyes seem to follow you as you walk from left to right.  It freaks out the children visiting the basilica, she told us.

Back home, I took a little walk and enjoyed the beautiful weather on the porch.  George rested after his paver job. 

I had borrowed a neighbor’s star-shaped cookie cutters to make the cheese stars for my Christmas tree charcuterie board.  Before returning the cutters to her, I made a lot of extra cheese “stars” to take to an upcoming New Year’s Day party.  (I have a LOT of leftover cheese!)

DINNER:  Time to start cutting calories.  A vegan dinner……The second half of the butternut squash I bought last week, roasted for about 35 minutes.  I spread some Trader Joe’s spiced chickpeas on top.  Sides were a kale/tahini salad and coleslaw.  Very virtuous! 

Merry Christmas!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Warming up.  Sunny.  High 50

Merry Christmas!  This photo was taken on the 22nd when the temps were in the 70s.  Good thing we took the photo then, as it turned really cold the next day.

And, we hope that you are enjoying the season with joy!  (We are with Joy!)

We opened a few presents….(Santa brought George some Scotch whiskey and me some wine).  Always practical, that guy.

Then, we had an eggbake for breakfast.  This has been a tradition in our family for years.  I like it because I can make it the day before, and it actually tastes better after sitting overnight.  There are a lot of recipes out there for something like this.  This was a good one….

2 # pork sausage
12 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
salt and pepper
green onions
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and minced (optional)
cheddar cheese shredded

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray Pyrex dish with oil.  Combine eggs, sour cream, milk, cheese, salt and pepper. 
Brown sausage.  Drain and add to egg mixture.  Add peppers and onions to pan and saute, then add to the egg mixture.  Pour into pan.  Bake at 350 for 35-50 minutes.  Serves 12!  Yikes – I halved the recipe and still have a lot of leftovers!

We had a progressive dinner, with friends coming over here for appetizers, then all of us going to another house for the main course.  For appetizers, I made three:  1) pickled asparagus rolled up with pieces of salami spread with hummus,   2) devilled eggs made with sun-dried tomatoes, and 3) baked ravioli with a home-made pasta sauce dip.

For the main course, our friend had smoked a turkey.  We had lots of sides, including a zucchini-chorizo corn bake.  (Recipe below)

Santa had sent me this nice blouse a few days ago.  This is how it looked on the model….

And this is how it looked on me today…

We shared my aunt’s fruitcake for dessert and our friend made a bread pudding. 

We left the dinner party a little early so that we could watch a PBS marathon of Call the Midwife and All Creatures Great and Small.   A really nice Christmas!

Zucchini-Chorizo Corn Bake

2 large zucchini, sliced lengthwise in 1/8 inch ribbons
12 oz ground chorizo (I used a combo of beef and soy chorizo)
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
1.5 cups milk
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1.5 cups corn
1.5  cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan

Preheat  oven to 350.  Lightly butter a Pyrex dish.  Place zucchini in a colander.  Sprinke with 1/2 tsp salt.  Let stand 20 minutes, then blot off moisture.
Meanwhile, brown chorizo.  Drain off extra fat.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, yolks, milk, spices, salt, and pepper. 
Spread half of the chorizo on the bottom of the Pyrex dish.
Top with a layer of zucchini, then layer of corn, and then layer of cheese.  Pour half of egg mixture on top.
Repeat with 2nd half of zucchini, corn, cheese, egg mixture, in layers. 

Bake uncovered for 40 minutes or until top is golden brown.  Let stand 10 minutes.  Serves 12! 

Christmas Eve fun!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Cold (for Texas).  High 38

Today is all about prep work.  We are having 5 other couples for heavy Christmas Eve appetizers.  Lots to do – cleaning, prepping, cooking.

We played the Christmas song game.  Here is the “quiz” again….

And here are the answers.  We played the game, and one couple got 14 correct.  Not bad – it was difficult!

I made a charcuterie board in the shape of a Christmas tree.  Here is the photo I saw online…

And here is how mine turned out….

I also made Texas caviar which was a big hit…

Texas “Caviar”

1/2 cup olive oil
3 T honey (I used agave syrup)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1.5 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 pound Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
One 15-oz can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
One 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1.5 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 red onion, diced
1/2 diced red bell pepper
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 cup cilantro, chopped

In a small bowl, whisk oil, honey, vinegar, herbs, salt and pepper
In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, peas, beans, corn, onion, peppers, and cilantro.

Pour dressing over salad and toss.  Cover.  Chill at least one hour.  Serve with chips.  Can also be used as a condiment for meat, chicken, or fish…..or tofu? 

Everyone pretty much squished into our small living room.  George and one of the men did venture out to the porch for beers next to our gas space heater.  Here we are, playing the song game…

We had a ton of food.  Besides my appetizers, we nibbled on eggplant caviar, a cheese ball, a hummus dip, tamales with cotija cheese and salsas, and unusual crackers.  This was followed by sweets – homemade ice cream, a chocolate Yule log, pralines, and cookies.  My refrigerator and freezer are now bulging at the seams! 

I think the party was a success! 

Prepping for Christmas parties!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Cold!  Low – 31.  High 34

The weatherman was right.  About 10:00 PM last night, the wind started blowing and the temps plummeted – – from 74 to about 30.  We awoke to frigid temps.  We have the heater on in Joy so the pipes don’t freeze. 

The flowers were grateful that I had brought them inside…

The bathroom is a temporary home for some….

We haven’t covered our outdoor plants, but most people in our community have.  The gusty wind blew off several blankets and sheets.  Quite a mess!

I did some prep for the Christmas Eve party.  We went shopping at a neighborhood Mexican grocery which is a strange combination of local Mexican produce/meat and high-end gourmet goods.  People were buying strange pork parts for menudo.  It is a unique experience!

We drove around the next door neighborhood to look at the Christmas decorations…..

At the Christmas Eve party tomorrow, I am going to play this game….Name That Song.  Here is the quiz.  I will provide the answers in tomorrow’s blog post.  Give it a try! For example, the first one is “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”


1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp salt and pepper
1/2 tsp pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup  butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup broth
2 T lemon juice
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 pound shrimp
2 T minced parsley

Combine herbs. 
Make sauce — In large skillet melt butter until sizzling.  Add garlic, spices, wine, stock, lemon juice , and Worcestershire.  Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer and cooke until sauce is thick, coating a spoon.
Add shrimp and cook about 3 minutes, until shrimp is pink. 
Serve with baguette to sop up juice 

Really a good dinner,  Side was arugula/ baby kale/tomato/mushroom salad. 

Before the cold hits…..

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Beautiful.  High 73.  Sunny.  Hard to believe it won’t last

I overslept, so rolled onto the pickleball court drowsily.  Since the weather is supposed to turn cold and blustery starting tonight, I wanted to get in a last game.  Perfect weather for it this morning.

Ditto for water aerobics.  By noon, it was about 68 and sunny, so I went to the pool.  No one else showed up, so I did a class by myself.  Got to take advantage when I can!

We, and the entire community, spent the afternoon covering plants and bringing pots indoors.  It is supposed to get to below freezing the next three nights.  These plants lining our driveway, including some new ones, hopefully will survive. 

I finished “decorating” our house for Christmas.  Since we have orange highlights as our decor, I stuck with orange for decorating….

A friend stopped by and we sat on the screened porch absorbing the last of the sunshine and warmth.  It is incredible that this 73+ temp will drop to 30 or so tonight.  With the setting sun, I brought in the last of the flower pots.

After he left, George and I had a pre-Christmas celebration with some oysters on the half shell, while still on the porch, watching the sun set……

DINNER:  I tried a new vegan recipe that turned out pretty well —

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Tahini Vinaigrette

1 small butternut squash,  peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch thick chunks or half-moons
2 medium red onions, cut into wedges
1 T olive oil
Salt and Pepper
1/4 cup tahini
2 tsp grated lemon zest
2 T lemon juice
4 cups baby kale
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup slivered almonds

Heat oven nto 450.  On baking sheet, toss squash and onions with oil and 1/4 tsp salt and pepper.  Roast until golden, about 35-45 minutes
Meanwhile, in a bowl whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, 2 T water, and salt.  Add more water if too thick.
Toss squash with kale and arrange on a platter.  Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle with lemon zest, cilantro, and almonds. 

The butternut squash that I bought was quite big, so I only used half in this recipe, and roasted the other half (just with butter, salt, and pepper) for a future meal.   Also, the tahini/lemon/water mix would make a good salad dressing for any greens. 

Chaos then Caroling!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Quite nice (before the cold front).  High 65

I did a final practice with neighbor/caroling coordinator Joe at the clubhouse.  We set up the chairs, got the cider and cookies ready, and ran through the songs. 

Then…..the dreaded “grocery shopping before Christmas” expedition.  The parking lot was at capacity…a bad sign.  Indeed there weren’t many carts available.  A clerk greeted us in Spanish selling pies “de manzana con canela”.  Banana leaves for making Christmas Eve tamales filled the aisles.  The deli section was giving samples of beef and wine.  All quite fun.  However, for some reason, they chose this, the busiest time of the year, to rearrange the shelves.  Nothing was where it used to be.  Signage hadn’t got up.  So, people were running around with a dazed look in their eyes trying to find their items.  Pure chaos!    We found everything but 2 things on our list.  They can wait.  I bought lots of deli items for the Christmas Eve charcuterie board and for the Texas caviar dish I’m preparing.  Ka-ching, ka-ching!

We ate an early dinner (just more leftover Thanksgiving fare) and rushed to the clubhouse for the Christmas sing-a-long.  About 30 people showed up.  It went extremely well.  George said he didn’t hear even one wrong note!   People seemed to enjoy it.  We sang 20 songs.  There was hot apple cider and lots of cookies and candy that people munched on while we sang.   I am so glad it is over.  Bonus – I met a new resident who loves to play the piano.  Maybe I can recruit her as a replacement next year?