We’re Almost Out Of Home Brew!

One might get the inaccurate impression from reading this blog that Betty & I are heavy drinkers. Nay, nay! (I doth protest too much. LOL) But we do like to pair a fine wine with a fine meal, and my understanding is that doctors claim it is good for our digestion. Well I’m going with that, whether they claim it or not…

When Betty retired for the first time, she informed me that making her own wine was on her bucket list. I inwardly cringed, as I’ve tasted a lot of homemade plonk over the years. But she prevailed and I believe her years of experience as a nurse lead to her overwhelming success: She thoroughly sterilized all components, and she followed the instructions to a T. She hasn’t produced a bad batch yet!

As most people realize, downsizing to a motorhome has its limitations. The custom wine rack I installed only has the capacity for 12 bottles. Another 15 can live under one of the seats, and of course there should always be a few chilling in the fridge. But when you’re used to bottling 60 every couple of months, one can see where our style is somewhat cramped!

While Betty developed expertise in the brewing, my skill in labeling was continuously honed. Thanks to a recommendation from our son, Andrew, I invested in a Dymo label maker, and enjoyed customizing the labels for each batch brewed. They involve pictures I took around our home in Winnipeg, or on previous motorhome trips. I’ve attached some of the recent efforts to this post, but the reader must recognize that the Dymo is a thermal printer that doesn’t use ink, so only produces a black & white image. That limits the subject matter, but I think my technique is still improving, if I ever have the chance for more practice.

In any event, now that we are without our home brew supply we must rely on others. Thankfully, we have found wine retailing to be far less regulated in some states south of the 49th. Right now Texas is particularly interesting as Walmart carries a larger selection than most government liquor stores in Manitoba, and with prices under $3 who can go wrong? We call it “Wally Wine”, and much of it isn’t that bad! Really! Costco here also has a generous selection, and so do some of the Dollar Stores, but we haven’t been reduced to Dollar Store wine just yet…

OK, so we’re having another great meal with fresh local ingredients tonight. I think its time we follow
the doctor’s orders and liquid(ate) our digestive systems! Cheers!

Some Great Texans!

It was forecast to turn chilly as we approached our first Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) rally at Lake Conroe, north of Houston, Texas. Betty & I had no idea what to expect from the South Texas Renegades, who were our hosts this past weekend. As it turned out, we were overwhelmed by the warmth of southern hospitality that we experienced from beginning to end!

Before we left Canada, I had spoken with Bob about the rally registration process. Rather than putting U.S. cash in the mail, or sending a Canadian cheque, Bob fronted us the registration fee until we could get to the campground. He was the first to welcome us, and provided a schedule of weekend events.

For each of the meals, we and 8 other guest couples were honoured to be served first with wonderful southern cooking, including pizza, chicken & sausage gumbo, and catfish, red beans & rice, with hearty portions of food for all meals.

This blog post would run too long if I named all the wonderful folk with whom we shared a meal and a laugh, but I have to give shout outs to a few:

A couple in their mid-eighties, John and Bettie have aged well (not to be confused with well-aged!). They are a true inspiration to us, describing their plan to full-time for 2 years, but continuing for 17! As we regularly evaluate our 5-year plan, we will keep in mind the possibilities presented by Bettie & John.

Lane & Brenda were our next-door neighbours at the campground, and we
also had an opportunity to share lunch with them at a waterfront restaurant called Papa’s On The Lake. Great neigbours!

We were lucky to meet John & Erin, not only because Erin was the lucky winner of one of our evening games, but also because John was able to describe what I should look for in a Prevost, if I ever win the lottery. Of course, because my luck doesn’t tend to be the same as Erin’s, I don’t buy tickets, so that Prevost may be a long way off!

Betty & I not only shared our love for food and wine with Rick & Denise, we shared a few bottles of the good stuff with them as well! At the end of the night, Rick was still reaching into his extensive stock when we made our way back to our motorhome, sufficiently warmed by the experience that I left my jacket behind on what was apparently a cool night. Rick took the time to drive me to his favorite butcher shop and introduce me to his butcher. In the next
few weeks we are looking forward to cranking up the barby for some tasty Texas ribs, steak, and armadillo balls (bacon-wrapped sausage). Going above and beyond, Rick, who is a commercial pilot and certified aircraft mechanic, took the time to diagnose and repair some wiring issues we were having with our motorhome. What an outstandingly generous man!

While most rally participants were Texans, we also enjoyed the company of a sweet couple from Arkansas. L.B. and Carol were people we would love to have spent more time with, if only to listen to the amazingly distinctive southern accent!

Well, there are many others that we enjoyed meeting at this first FMCA rally. If this group is any indication of what to expect from others in FMCA, we look forward to warming our hearts with hospitality again, regardless of the temperature outside!

Whatever Happened To Galveston Island?

Expecting to see an island reduced in size by recent hurricanes, Betty & I were surprised to find Galveston Island apparently twice the size of our memory. I say apparently, since I am sure the island is the same size as before – just a significantly different recollection…

We began our exploration by visiting the State Park beach side campground where we had previously stayed. More than twice as many sites were developed since our last visit. The drive to the south west end of the island took twice as long, with many more colourful, stilted cottages added to the landscape. Episodes of Beachfront Bargain Hunt flashed through our minds the whole way.

Toward the end of the island we turned our Smart car onto the beach. Charlie enjoyed the chase of the car along the hard-packed sand, taking a mad dash into the waves along the way. He has always loved water, and returned to our campsite a happy and tired puppy.

We then headed down the waterfront drive to the opposite end of the island – a trip that took twice as long as we expected. From there it was our intent to visit the fresh fish outlet that we had stopped at on a previous trip. My recollection was that it was just below the bridge to the mainland, but the drive to the far side of the island was – you guessed it – more than twice as long as before.

Many parts of the island appeared rebuilt after previous hurricanes, and memory didn’t serve to get us to our destination. Enter Google and we were taken past a Disney cruise ship in port, finally arriving at the unique open outlet on the side of the harbor where today’s catch was laid out on beds of ice. The pelicans we remembered seeking scraps at the front of the store were now fenced off on the harbor side, but they were still there. We picked out some large, fresh shrimp, red snapper and a couple of flounder, and the fish were filleted for us on the spot to our specifications.

Back at our campsite, I fired up the barby & we cooked red snapper with fresh lemon slices, some baked potatoes and a Missouri rib eye steak. The surf ‘n turf was paired with a Pinot Grigio and a Valpolicella. I know, twice the food and twice the wine, but the tasty meal fit well on an island that appeared to be twice the size of our memory!

Nirvana

No, not the Kurt Cobain band, but the state of perfect quietude, freedom, and highest happiness. That is where Betty & I found ourselves yesterday.

We began our less than grueling day, breaking camp in Austin, Texas, and driving for an hour to Bastrop State Park. Being a weekend and without a reservation, we had no idea whether they would have a campsite for us. As it turns out, we had our choice of sites, and selected one at the end of a loop, with a scenic lookout over valleys in 2 directions. The park had suffered from a major forest fire in 2011, but new growth and fresh plantings were evident, and the campground is well cared for. To our surprise, we have a large, full service
site at half the price we had paid in Austin. With a paved parking area, the automatic levelers did quick work of stabilizing us, and a push of another button had our slideouts expanding our living space in no time at all.

For lunch Betty presented sushi with an assortment of cheeses and crackers, all paired with a nice Beaujolais. For dinner I prepared my famous prosciutto wrapped asparagus and lamb chops on the grill, and served with mint sauce and a bottle of Cambridge & Sunset Pinot Noir. We sat outside and enjoyed the warmth of a Texas evening, the perfect quietude of our camp spot, the freedom that retirement brings, and the highest happiness of each other’s company. Nirvana!