Thursday, December 27, 2012

Visitors, Christmas in Paradise, then a Nor'easter

Roger here....  Since we are not posting as often while stationary in south Texas, we are combining the events of our lives into a few blogs.

VISITORS....  Our first visitor is pictured in the opening photo.  Dianne has a motion-activated wildlife cam that she attaches to the fence behind our coach house.  We are usually visited by jackrabbits, armadillos, feral cats, and an occasional coyote.  A few evenings ago we discovered a LARGE bobcat.  Bandido occasionally barks in the middle of the night for no apparent reason.  Now we know why.  Living in the wild!  What fun!

Speaking of wild (just kidding), my brother, Dick (my only sibling), and his wife, Pam, came to see us for a couple of days.  It was their first visit to our home in south Texas.  Since their visit was short, we spent most of our time swimming, hot-tubbing, and just catching up.  Oh!  And eating Dianne's delicious food. 

 We spent a wonderful day bicycling through Bentsen Rio Grande State Park --- looking at the birds, and cycling to the National Butterfly Park, just down the road.  During our obligatory daily visit to the dog park, they enjoyed watching me take Bandido through the portions of the agility course that he could master.  This shot shows a feeble attempt going through the criss-cross stakes (We need to work on that).

In this shot, Bandido had just jumped over the hurdle and was looking for his treat. Good boy!  Tequila was also looking for a treat, even though her only effort in the event was watching.  I honestly do think that with some effort on our part  Tequila could also learn to do some of the agility tricks.  She learns things quickly.

On the morning of Dick and Pam's departure, we took them to one of our favorite local restaurants, the Diaz Diner, for breakfast.  Good food, great local atmosphere.  Sorry to see them leave so soon.

Christmas in Paradise....  The weather on Christmas day was perfect.  86 degrees with a cooling breeze.  We sat in the shade of a tall palm tree, pool-side, enjoying Christmas dinner with friends.  (Anne, Mike, Lorraine, me, Dianne).  Anne's husband, Graeme, took the picture.

Then, a Nor'easter....  The weather changed the day after Christmas.  Brrr!  Well, it really was not a Nor'easter, in the New England sense.  Here in Texas they call them blue northers.   But, the wind was from the north and it did get really cold, well cool.  We spent some time covering our plants so that they would not frost in the predicted 39 degree approaching weather. 

 I thought the protection for Dianne's morning glories resembled a New England fisherman wearing a slicker.

All the plants that could have frosted were covered.

Our neighbors, Bob and Linda, are in Sacramento with their family.  They had just planted an extensive garden area behind their coach house.  Dianne was worried about their new, tender plantings and made sure that the new plants were protected.  Does anyone else think that Dianne's protection of their tomatoes looks like a big girl's giant pair of pantaloons?  I know, sick mind.

While we were in our neighbors' back yard we could not help but take a picture of their new tropical-colored furniture (from Amish-country in Ohio).  Looks great!  We just ordered a couple of end tables from the same vendor to add some color to our patio area.

Back to the impending cold weather....  Bandido is looking for a place to protect one of his beloved tennis balls.

Tequila is saying "Cold weather?" What is that?

The temperature did not actually drop below the low 40s.  We did not experience anything like our friends who were in the blizzard in Indiana.  The lows for the next two weeks are supposed to be in the mid-fifties.  Tomorrow, it should get up to 75 degrees.  Ah!  We are in the right place.  

The pet picture of the day is of Tequila with one of her best friends at the dog park, Houdi.

Former Cinderella rescues, now playing in paradise together!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Life at Retama Village

Roger here...  Yes, we are still alive.  Life has been busy for the two of us.  I just finished a year as the director of activities here at Retama Village, and am preparing for a year as the chairman of the community advisory committee before returning to a normal pace and a second retirement.  I will not bore you with everything, but I will tell you there has been little time to write blogs.

Dianne keeps busy as the unofficial Retama librarian.  She rides her bike to the clubhouse nearly every day to shelve newly-returned books and to weed out those that no one seems to read, to make room for more current ones.  She is in her element.

Dianne's other major activity is dedicating her time and soul to the Cinderella Pet Rescue Center just down the road.  I will let her explain what she does there.

Pirate, Black Bart, Paulette, and Barbie
Dianne here:  Every Wednesday and Friday morning I've been putting on old clothes and old shoes and heading for Cinderella Pet Rescue to love on the dogs (and take them out of their pens for walks and play time).  I'm getting to know (and love) them!  

I REALLY had puppy fun this day!
I come home dirty, exhausted, and covered in "dog" but feeling really good.  My ears get a good cleaning out, too, from all the licking.  It's a great workout (I average about 2 1/2 miles while there, plus an upper body workout from all the pulling and tugging.)

Sue, dressed for puppy duty - the boots are a great idea!
Jubilee - a little sweetheart who needs a home!
My friends Sue and Marian have gone over with me on Wednesday mornings.  Fridays I join a group from the RV park next door.  I just can't get enough!  Happily, two of my little buddies got adopted this week to forever homes.

Since I have more time than money, that's what I give them, but they can always use monetary donations, too.  Bandido and Tequila were both adopted from Cinderella, and this is my way of giving back.  I can't imagine life without them now!
Sienna - a house-trained beautiful border collie mix ready for a home!  She has a twin brother available, too.

Here's a link to their web site if you'd like to learn more about Cinderella or the dogs available for adoption (click on "dogs"):

Now, back to Roger...

Retama Village is a busy place with lots of activities --- all organized by the residents.  We have Oktoberfest, ice cream socials, monthly birthday bashes, Monday Night Football get-togethers, and evening happy hours in which everyone brings a heavy hors d'oeurvre.  I will tell you about three of the bigger events:

We all ate by the swimming pool (in shorts!) on Thanksgiving Day.  Residents donated turkeys and brought delicious side dishes.  What a spread!  It brought back lots of memories of past Thanksgivings.  The only things missing were family members and the cold drizzle of Indiana.

Thanksgiving with good friends and good food!  

"Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" was the theme of a 50s, 60s, 70s dance that took place recently by the pool.  The Fabulous Cassandra was our DJ, and she was -- let's just say --- fabulous.  What fun.  We served burgers, chips and root beer floats before the dancing began.  I won a lighted, flashy pin for my performance under the limbo pole.  AND, Dianne danced.  Dianne does not like to dance, but she did :-).  Since we were busy, there are no photos; however, here are a couple of photos showing how we looked, back in the day: 

1970s - The abyss of fashion....
 (As explanation, as part of the party fun there was a display of photos from our younger years; it was a lot of fun to try to put names with young faces!)

The Retama Derby was an event that took place on another evening.  Six people dressed up as jockeys and raced through a course (using the throw of a couple lighted dice).  The opening photo is actually a victory photo of me and my steed, Purdue Pete, after winning the first heat.  Here we are in the middle of one of the races.

Our neighbor, Bob, won the award for the best- dressed jockey.  (Look closely -- he even has "hooves"!  -- D.)  Bob's enthusiasm really contributed to the festive evening!

The ladies wore Kentucky Derby-like hats.  Here's Dianne and our neighbor, Linda, wearing fresh flowers from our gardens.

Our friend, Marian, serving up mint juleps
Our friend, Marian, served bright green mint juleps to all the derby fans.  Very potent --- a little too potent for my stomach.  I was the same color as the juleps for most of the next day.  My horse, Purdue Pete, lost by a nose in the final race to Better Late Than Never --- typical Purdue performance; so close, but unable to seal the win.

Enough of the partying.  Our outdoor areas are continuing to flourish.  Dianne's black-eyed susan vine has enveloped the trellis and is now producing flowers.

The tomatoes are progressing nicely.  We should have a nice crop by Christmas.

Dianne is so proud of her Moonflower Vine.  It produces gigantic, fragrant blooms every evening.

Our new garden area in the back attracts an amazing number of butterflies.  I counted more than twenty this morning fluttering around one of the plants.

I started a project yesterday.  We purchased an ice machine to put next to the bar on the patio area of our coach house.  It has been sitting on a set of stacking tables (in the space between the bar and the ice chest in the photo).  The cheap tables have been very functional, but were beginning to resemble their monetary value.  I thought that in addition to the colorful flowers, we needed some colorful furniture.  Sooooo......  

I think this is bright enough.  They should be completely dry tomorrow so I can re-stack them and move the ice machine off the bar.

It seems funny celebrating Christmas when it is 85 degrees outside, but Christmas season it is.  We gave most of our decorations away after we sold our house, but we did keep a few that we keep in a trunk at the back of the closet.

We purchased this nativity scene in Progreso, Mexico a year ago.  Couldn't find Baby Jesus this year, so we may have to make a return trip over the border to buy a replacement.  Chances are, we'll find him when we put the decorations away.

We also disposed of all our outdoor Christmas lights and swore that we would never take the time to put them up again.  However....

Our pergola is perfect for icicle lights to illuminate balmy happy hours...
Dianne here:  One of our favorite things this year is that Bob and Linda, our good friends and neighbors, are right next door.  Last winter they stayed in California to sell their house, and we missed them.  Now each evening we migrate to the patio with drinks in hand to discuss the day's events.  

If there's nothing new that day, we can always revert back to "what I did last summer," which in their case was to travel around Europe for three months!  If you'd like to read about their summer travels, here's a link to Bob's blog:

Where's our treat?
Bandido and Tequila know it's treat time at wine-thirty, so they also look forward to our neighborly evenings

Sometimes our other good Retama friends, Jim and Sue and/or Mike and Brenda stop by, too.   There's always cold beer in the cooler, so if you happen to be walking down our street around 5:00 stop on in and join the group!  (You'll hear the laughter from the street).
The squirt gun is to keep Bandido in line; the box wine is to save money.
My brother, Dick, and his wife, Pam, will be visiting us in a few days --- their first trip to see us at Retama Village.  Hopefully, it will seem a little like Christmases past to them.

The pet picture of the day is a little unusual.  We have all sorts of flora and fauna here in the Rio Grande Valley, most of it beautiful.  Some of it, a little scary.  The other day when I opened the outdoor ice chest to get a beverage, something plopped into the water at the bottom of the cooler. I soon discovered what it was as I gently placed this bottle of beer onto the patio deck.  

At least the scorpion has good taste in beer....

Thursday, November 1, 2012

"It's Only a Shed"

Hi all, Dianne here.  As shown above, the cattle next to our dog park have watched our return with interest!  Our coach house sits right behind the tree line in the background of the photo.  

Not much to update, but I wanted to share a link to a blog which recently showcased our tiny coach house in Texas.  Even if you've seen photos of our coach house on our own blog, there are some great photos which really showcase it here:

"It's Only a Shed"

I've added a permanent link to this blog at the left margin of ours, if you are interested in future tiny coach house posts.

Aside from that, here's a quick update:

I've been riding my bike through the state park next door for exercise, and Tuesday morning I came upon this large bobcat. 

He ignored me for a while, turning to look at me from time to time, then hopped into the brush along the road.

This morning on my bike ride I saw a road runner.  By the time I got my camera out and rode up to him, he ran into the brush to hide.  You can just see his shadow in this photo.  Maybe next time....

Then I had to stop and wait for this flock of chachalachas to cross the road.

Our plantings are growing like weeds!  My tomato plants already have blooms --

They are growing in big pots that we can roll inside in case we get an overnight frost in January.  

My morning glory experiment has been a success! They have already grown to the top of the wire trellises, and each day have more and more blooms.

My wildlife cam has mostly captured opossums and early morning birds, but I did find two rabbits...

A cottontail...

And a jack rabbit...

That's all for now.   We'll post again if and when there's something to report.

Our pet photo of the day shows Bandido taking a break in the water tub at the doggie park after retrieving his beloved blue whistle ball a hundred times (exaggeration -- just seemed that way).  November is here, and a lot more of his Texas buddies are on their way south for some winter fun.  Bandido and Tequila can't wait to see them, and neither can I!