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March 18, 2019

Texas Road Trip - Day 25

Friday, September 28, 2019
New Braunfels, Texas
Linda & Bob's Hacienda

We finally arrived! After 24 days, traveling through 6 states and driving 2,722 miles, we reached our dear friends' home in New Braunfels, Texas. 

After a lazy morning and breakfast, Linda & Bob took us out for a personal tour of their area. (San Marcos, Greune, New Braunfels, etc.) We had a delicious lunch at Baja BBQ Shack on Canyon Lake and did more exploring after we stuffed our bellies. Sadly, Rod was beginning to show signs of having a head cold and wasn't feeling 100%.


Brisket enchiladas!
Baja BBQ Shack on Canyon Lake

 Guadalupe River


 Retired Life


 Live Oaks


 Miss Linda's beautiful kitchen.






Our dear friends and gracious hosts, 
Bobby and Miss Linda.

March 17, 2019

Texas Road Trip - Day 24

Thursday, September 27, 2018
San Angelo to New Braunfels, Texas
Distance: 281 (60 of which were unnecessary!)
Linda & Bob's Hacienda
Duration: 4 nights
Weather: Hot & humid

The sun came out and we had a very pretty morning as we prepared to head southeast toward our good friends' home in New Braunfels. The GPS wasn't in agreement with our route on RV Trip Wizard and so we wound up heading southwest, which added close to 60 miles of extra driving to the day's drive. We also took the back roads from Fredericksburg to New Braunfels, along the Devil's Backbone, which was a lot of fun in our Miata 20 years ago. It's very curvy, slow and long in an RV! Again, more unnecessary miles. We didn't reach our final destination at Linda and Bob's until after 6pm. Live and learn, I suppose.


Pretty sunrise.






Yeah, not in an RV.


Texas Highway in the Hill Country.

March 16, 2019

Instant Pot BBQ Ribs

When I first learned to cook ribs, I used a recipe (probably from an old Sunset Magazine cookbook) that said to start them off in the oven in a 9x13 pan with a little bit of water and covered with foil to seal in the moisture. Many years later, I switched to a crockpot, which has been my go-to method without fail. However, the other day I came upon a recipe on Taste and Tell that requires an Instant Pot, so I decided to do a taste-test comparison using both the crockpot and the Instant Pot. I cooked one rack of ribs in the crockpot as I usually do for 8 hours and the other rack in the Instant Pot for 35 minutes (not including the time it takes to build up and release the pressure). Not only did the Instant Pot save me 7 hours of time (and electricity), but the meat was fall-off-the-bone tender! Another Instant Pot winner thanks to Taste and Tell's super easy recipe.


Instant Pot Ribs

1 rack baby back ribs (about 4 lbs.)
1 cup water
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
3/4 cup barbecue sauce, divided

Rub:

2 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. pepper
Dash of cayenne pepper

In a small bowl, mix the salt, brown sugar, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, pepper and cayenne pepper.

Cut the ribs into four equal portions. Rub both sides of the ribs with the spice mixture.

Place the trivet in the bottom of the Instant Pot. Pour the water, vinegar and soy sauce in the bottom of the pot and place the ribs on top of the trivet, stacking them up in a teepee shape. You don't want them lying on top of each other.

Lock the lid in place and make sure the vent is closed. Select Manual High pressure and set the time to 35 minutes. When the time is up, naturally release the pressure for 10 minutes, then quick release any remaining pressure.

While the ribs are cooking, line a baking sheet with foil. When the ribs are finished cooking, turn the oven broiler on high. Place the cooked ribs on the baking sheet and brush with 1/2 cup of the barbecue sauce. Broil the ribs 4-6 inches from the heat until a crust has formed. Watch closely, as this doesn't take long!

Serve with the remaining barbecue sauce.


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March 15, 2019

Looking Back - These High Green Hills

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.



These High, Green Hills by Jan Karon
Fiction
1996 Penguin Books
Finished in May 1998
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

In These High, Green Hills we're once again in Mitford, a southern village of local characters so heartwarming and hilarious you'll wish you lived right next door.

At last, Mitford's rector and lifelong bachelor, Father Tim, has married his talented and vivacious neighbor, Cynthia. Now, of course, they must face love's challenges: new sleeping arrangements for Father Tim's sofa-sized dog, Cynthia's urge to decorate the rectory Italian-villa-style, and the growing pains of the thrown-away boy who's become like a son to the rector.

Add a life-changing camping trip, the arrival of the town's first policewoman, and a new computer that requires the patience of a saint, and you know you're in for another engrossing visit to Mitford--the little town that readers everywhere love to call home.

My Original Notes (1998):

Wonderful! I truly enjoyed every word. I feel as though these characters are not only real, but my friends. Charming and inspiring.

My Current Thoughts:

I'm looking forward to rereading this one. I recently started reading At Home in Mitford and it's just as good as the first time I read it.

March 12, 2019

Texas Road Trip - Day 23

Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Lubbock to San Angelo, Texas
Distance: 189 miles
Campground: San Angelo State Park
Duration: 1 night
Cost: $28
Weather: Overcast and warm

46 degrees and still raining when we woke up. (Yes, we eventually fell asleep!) After a mediocre breakfast at Cracker Barrel, we were on the road by 10:30 and arrived at San Angelo State Park a little after 3:00. We made the decision to camp in San Angelo, rather than keep our original plans to boondock at the Eola Brewery (another Harvest Host). 

The view from our boondocking spot at Cracker Barrel.
It rained all night.

Lots of "nodding donkeys" (pumpjacks) along the way.

We also saw a lot of flare stacks in the fields.

The campground was decent with water & electric at our site and a dump station near the entrance. Our gravel pad was fairly level and we had a nice picnic table, but we only used it to grill our dinner since the rain returned. Nothing fancy, and not nearly as nice as some of the Oregon and Washington state parks, but the sites were well-spaced, so we had quite a bit of privacy. It was very quiet and we had a restful stay.


We had the whole place to ourselves.

 Closest neighbors were in a loop further on down the road.


My happy camper.

March 10, 2019

Texas Road Trip - Day 22

Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Clovis, New Mexico to Lubbock, Texas
Distance: 118 miles
Cracker Barrel - Boondocking
Cost: Free
Duration: 1 night
Weather: Rainy

The carbon monoxide alarm went off right after we finished breakfast and we couldn't figure out what was wrong. I reset it and after a few minutes, it went off again. It eventually stopped, so we think it was from the exhaust from one of the RVs near us in the Walmart parking lot. At least we know it works. (And it will definitely wake us up in the middle of the night!)





It was cloudy and 80 degrees when we drove out of Clovis.  It only took us a couple of hours to get to Lubbock, but our next destination was almost 200 miles further, which is really too far to drive in an RV. (RV 2-2-2 Rule: Never more than 200 miles, stop by 2 pm, stay at least 2 days.) No relief from the heat in Texas, which didn't surprise us.



We found a coffee house (Yellow House Coffee) in Lubbock and got a couple of drinks while we used their WiFi for uploading pictures, drafting blog posts, etc. It could have been a nice place, but like the spot we visited the day before, it was too noisy. So far, the quietest coffee house we've found on this trip was in Flagstaff. We loved that place!







We had originally planned to stay at a Harvest Host winery, but with torrential rain on the horizon, we didn't want to park on their dirt road (which they said gets very muddy) and wind up getting stuck, so we found a Cracker Barrel for another night of boondocking. It turned out to be a very dark & stormy night!


Parked near these railroad tracks, 
but no problem with train noise.

What a night! It was very windy (25-30 mph gusts) and then the rain began. It howled and roared like a summer storm in the Midwest. The RV shook and the rain thundered down on the roof All. Night. Long. It was a little scary and I couldn't sleep, so I moved out to the couch (which was surprisingly comfortable). I dozed on and off, but it was really an awful night. Rod didn't do much better. Everything is much louder in an RV than a house, so it sounded like someone was pounding on the roof the entire night. If we were fulltimers, I would have driven to a hotel!

March 8, 2019

Looking Back - Here on Earth

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.




Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman
Fiction
1998 Berkley Books (first published in 1997)
Finished in March 1998
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

After nearly twenty years of living in California, March Murray, along with her fifteen-year-old daughter, Gwen, returns to the sleepy Massachusetts town where she grew up to attend the funeral of Judith Dale, the beloved housekeeper who raised her. Yet returning to her hometown also brings her back to Hollis, March’s former soul mate and lover. March’s father had taken the teenaged Hollis, an abandoned child, and the product of a series of detention homes, into his house as a boarder, and treated him like a son. Yet March and Hollis’s passionate love was hardly a normal sibling relationship. When Hollis left her after a petty fight, March waited for him three long years, wondering what she had done wrong.

Encountering Hollis again makes March acutely aware of the choices that she has made, and the choices everyone around her has made—including Mrs. Dale, who knew more of love than March could ever have suspected, and her brother Alan, whose tragic history has left him grief-struck, with alcohol as his only solace. Her attraction to Hollis is overwhelming—and March jeopardizes her marriage, her relationship with her daughter and her own happiness in an attempt to reclaim the past.


My Original Notes (1998):

This book sure kept my interest. I read it in one day! I really enjoyed it, but hated one of the main characters - Hollis.

My Current Thoughts:

I wonder if this is the first book of Alice Hoffman's that I read. (It was either this or Turtle Moon.) I probably picked it up after hearing about it on Oprah. I vaguely remember the plot and am impressed that I read it in a single day, especially since we were in the middle of moving to Texas! I've gone on to read a few more of Hoffman's books, but she isn't one of my favorite authors.

March 7, 2019

The Brutal Telling



The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #5
Mystery
2009 Minataur Books
Finished on March 4, 2019
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Chaos is coming, old son.

With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. As families prepare to head back to the city and children say goodbye to summer, a stranger is found murdered in the village bistro and antiques store. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in to strip back layers of lies, exposing both treasures and rancid secrets buried in the wilderness.

No one admits to knowing the murdered man, but as secrets are revealed, chaos begins to close in on the beloved bistro owner, Olivier. How did he make such a spectacular success of his business? What past did he leave behind and why has he buried himself in this tiny village? And why does every lead in the investigation find its way back to him?

As Olivier grows more frantic, a trail of clues and treasures— from first editions of Charlotte’s Web and Jane Eyre to a spider web with the word “WOE” woven in it—lead the Chief Inspector deep into the woods and across the continent in search of the truth, and finally back to Three Pines as the little village braces for the truth and the final, brutal telling.

So far, this is my favorite book in Louise Penny's popular Armand Gamache series. The mysteries continue to improve and impress and this unpredictable installment kept me guessing until the final page. I appreciate that Penny doesn't feel the need for a happy ending with each of her books. Her characters are flawed and fully realized and life isn't always rosy in these character driven stories. The atmospheric tension is almost palpable and I couldn't put the book down. This is a series on which I'm happy to binge!

Interesting Facts:

The painter referenced in this mystery, Emily Carr, is a real person and we share the same birthday. I love her paintings and am surprised I've never heard of her.


Metchosin, 1935 Oil


Yan, Q.C.I, 1912 Oil

Totem Forest, 1930 Oil

Favorite Passages:
In the kitchen Gamache’s German shepherd, Henri, sat up in his bed and cocked his head. He had huge oversized ears which made Gamache think he wasn’t purebred but a cross between a shepherd and a satellite dish.
and 
Not a spoon clinked against a mug, not a creamer was popped, peeled and opened, not a breath. It was as though something else had joined them then. As though silence had taken a seat.
and
What came out surprised them all. A Celtic lament left the bow, left the violin, left the agent. It filled the cabin, filled the rafters. Almost into the corners. The simple tune swirled around them like colors and delicious meals and conversation. And it lodged in their chests. Not their ears, not their heads. But their hearts. Slow, dignified, but buoyant. It was played with confidence. With poise.
Agent Morin had changed. His loose-limbed awkward body contorted perfectly for the violin, as though created and designed for this purpose. To play. To produce this music. His eyes were closed and he looked the way Gamache felt. Filled with joy. Rapture even. Such was the power of this music. This instrument.
and
Their main courses had arrived. A fruit-stuffed Rock Cornish game hen, done on the spit, for Gamache; melted Brie, fresh tomato and basil fettuccine for Lacoste; and a lamb and prune tagine for Beauvoir. A platter of fresh harvested grilled vegetables was also brought to the table.
Gamache's chicken was tender and tasty, delicately flavored with Pommery-style mustard and vermouth.

I think it's time Louise Penny wrote a cookbook! 

March 4, 2019

A Month in Summary - February 2019

Little Whale Cove
Depoe Bay, Oregon
February 2019

Wow! What a month. Winter finally showed up and we had snow a couple of times, although nothing that required a snow shovel or ice scraper and certainly nothing like the storms we used to get in Nebraska. But even with the colder temps I managed to stay very busy. The other morning I realized that my calendar hasn't been this full since my daughter was in elementary school! The only difference is that instead of gymnastics, soccer, acting and piano lessons, mine is filled with yoga, pickleball, mah jong and book club. I even found time to drop in on a bird club (we spotted 4 eagles!) and a gardening club, both of which were fun and informative. With all these social activities, I'm surprised I had time to get in much reading, but I did and all five books were very good. We watched a lot of movies and TV series in the evenings and I finally got back to some puzzle time, which always starts out as a frustrating endeavor, but quickly turns into a compulsive activity. Instead of "just one more page," I find myself thinking, "just one more piece!" Lastly, February 13th marked the 13th anniversary of my blog, which started out as Lesley's Book Nook, transformed into Prairie Horizons and eventually evolved into Coastal Horizons. I'm not sure if I'll continue for another 13 years, but I don't have any plans to quit anytime soon. Thanks for reading!

Books Read in February (click on titles for my review):

A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny

Whiskey When We're Dry by John Larison

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom

After You by Jojo Moyes

First Lines:

In the height of summer the guests descended on the isolated lodge by the lake, summoned to the Manoir Bellechasse by identical vellum invitations, addressed in the familiar spider scrawl as though written in cobwebs. Thrust through mail slots, the heavy paper had thudded to the floor in impressive homes in Vancouver and Toronto, and a small brick cottage in Three Pines. (A Rule Against Murder)

I heard it said God moves on the water. Well, I have looked for Him there. My thirst grows with his flood. (Whiskey When We're Dry)

When I was a kid, my aspirations were simple. I wanted a dog. I wanted a house that had stairs in it--two floors for one family. I wanted, for some reason, a four-door station wagon instead of the two-door Buick that was my father's pride and joy. I used to tell people that when I grew up, I was going to be a pediatrician. Why? Because I loved being around little kids and I quickly learned that it was a pleasing answer for adults to hear. Oh, a doctor! What a good choice! In those days, I wore pigtails and bossed my older brother around and managed, always and no matter what, to get As at school. I was ambitious, though I didn't know exactly what I was shooting for. Now I think it's one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child--What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that's the end. (Becoming)

The last class of my old professor's life took place once a week in his house, by a window in the study where he could watch a small hibiscus plant shed its pink leaves. The class met on Tuesdays. It began after breakfast. The subject was The Meaning of Life. It was taught from experience. (Tuesdays with Morrie)

The big man at the end of the bar is sweating. He holds his head low over his double scotch and every few minutes he glances up and out behind him toward the door, and a fine sheen of perspiration glistens under the strip lights. He lets out a long, shaky breath disguised as a sigh and turns back to his drink. (After You)

Movies & TV Series:



House, MD - We finished re-watching Season Four and I'm still enjoying the show, but maybe not quite as much as the first time I saw it.




The Last Jedi - Meh. Not the worst Star Wars episode I've seen, but not my favorite.




Solo - Honestly? I don't even remember if I liked this one or not. We watched it early in the month.




Sherlock - We are now caught up, having just watched all of Season 4. The final episode was quite creepy and disturbing!




Collateral - A 4-part British TV series, starring Carey Mulligan. Very good!




First Man - Good, but on the verge of becoming too sentimental. It's been years since I watched it, but I prefer The Right Stuff. I also liked Apollo 13 better than First Man. Maybe it's just that I don't care for Ryan Gosling. On the other hand, Claire Foy was excellent!




Hellboy - I was pleasantly surprised by this action hero movie. Yes, I'm ready to watch II.




Mars - After watching First Man, we found this on Netflix and pretty much binged on Season One in a few short days. I just discovered there's a second season! Yay! I loved the historical segments (2016 versus 2033) and could easily watch this a second time.




Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - If it weren't for the great cast (Martin Freeman, Zooey Deschanel, John Malkovich, Bill Nighy, and Alan Rickman, to name a few), I don't think I could have sat through this entire movie.




The Night Manager - We watched the first two episodes of Season One and I'm still on the fence. I like Hugh Laurie, but I'm not sure I care for him in this show. I do like Olivia Colman, however!




The Escape Artist - Next to Mars, this may be my favorite of the month. I love David Tennant and he was exceptionally good in this 3-part series. It's a very intense drama that had me holding my breath on more than one occasion. Loved it!


Puzzlemania:




This 1000 piece puzzle was pretty challenging! It took us two weeks to complete.



Mah Jong - Early this month, I taught two of my friends how to play and four of us have been getting together once a week to play for a few hours. We laugh, drink wine, eat chocolate and have a wonderful time. It's become one of the highlights of my week.




Pickleball (not my photo - we play indoors) - This has become my other favorite activity! I went to a neighborhood clinic for beginners and was immediately hooked. We've played a few times and I even got Rod to go hit the ball with me the other day. It's a great workout and a lot of fun!


So, as you can see, it was a fun-filled month! With warmer weather on the horizon, we're beginning to think about some RV road trips.