Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Updating December 2011
So what have we been doing here over the Christmas holidays? I painted the staircase we bought last year - easier to climb than the trailer stairs. We had our picture taken for the Park Book that comes out next September - showing all the residents. We haven't had one of these books yet but they are handy if you forget someone's name. We have been experiencing a cool spell here over the holidays - Christmas Eve was cold and rainy - but the rain is needed so we don't complain too much. We have been golfing and biking and shopping. I taught my first exercise class on Wednesday at 8 AM but am restricted to a 30 minute time slot - and I am used to an hour time slot back home so it is difficult to get everything in. We have learned how to play Fast Track - a card game and enjoyed a chocolate fondue at neighbours one night. On Christmas Eve we attended the Candle Light Service in the Clubhouse and had Christmas Dinner in the Clubhouse at noon on Christmas Day. The resort provided the turkey, ham and gravy. Then we did a round of golf on our little 9 hole Par 3 course since the sun came out for a little while and then we spent a quiet afternoon and evening watching The Rainmaker" movie starring Matt Damon and Danny DeVito. We did a little after Christmas shopping on Boxing Day (which they really don't have in USA).
Dec 27 - we went on the Resort Bus to the Santa Rosa W R Cowley Sugar House - the only Sugar Cane Factory in Texas and the biggest and newest one in the USA - but it is 35 years old. This factory is a co-op from 169 sugar cane growers in 3 counties in the Rio Grande Valley. These farmers grow 56,000 acres of sugar cane thanks to irrigation in the Valley. Sugar Cane takes 365 days till it is ready for harvest and after the first planting in a field it will be harvested for 4 years before resting in another crop for a year and then back to cane. The plant is self sustaining in power and waste reduction and the boilers power turbines and the extra power produced is sold back to the power grid. All their raw sugar is sold to Dofino Sugar and refined elsewhere and the waste molasses is sold to feed lots to be mixed in the cattle feed. Environmental restrictions regarding the burning of the cane fields may close down this industry in the future.
Each of their tractor trailer trucks hold approximately 28 tons of sugar cane. In good weather, the sugar mill runs around the clock during the harvest season, which is from early October to the end of March.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

First Week at Trophy Gardens, Alamo, Texas

We arrived around 1 PM on Wednesday, Dec 14/11 - sunny and warm and Texas windy. We extracted ourselves from our little Subaru Impreza and all the stuff we brought. Before we go home I must take an inventory of our clothes - we brought a bit too much cause we didn't remember what we left behind in April - we had to buy 20 more hangers.

At 3 PM I joined the neighbours at the clubhouse for a Brown Bag Christmas exchange - 100 people joined in with the exchange of $5 gifts in these brown paper bags - lots of bottles of wine, tins of popcorn and boxes of chocolates ( which everyone down here refers to as candy). I was fortunate to go back to the trailer with my new gift - 4 muffins and a loaf of homemade bread made by the neighbour across the road from us. Poor Don was back at the trailer still setting up things so the food came in handy since we hadn't shopped for food yet.

Thursday morning, I took Don's bicycle (mine has a flat tire - which happened right before we left last April) and joined the Bike Club here for a 10 mile ride - with a stop for breakfast at a restaurant - which was the destination. The weather was a bit cloudy but still warm. The afternoon was spent washing the Texas dust and dirt off the trailer. We had drinks later that evening at Rick and Brenda's new mobile home - they were leaving the next morning for their home in Hot Springs Arkansas for Christmas with their family.

Friday morning I went to exercise with the ladies in the Clubhouse to a 30 minute Jane Fonda dvd at 8 AM and did a line dancing session at the Clubhouse from 9 to 10 AM. In the afternoon we visited the local hardware store and signed up at the local library - but we do have a library in our clubhouse that may have more books. The weather has turned cooler and cloudy today and will be that way for a few more days. Don played poker with the boys in the Clubhouse in the evening and I caught up on my emails.

Saturday - still cool and rainy. I went with our Kincardine, Ontario friends - Bonnie and John - to a World Birding Centre in Edinburg for a talk and hike from an experienced birder - focusing on Winter Wetland Birds. It was weather for the ducks and we saw lots of them and herons and a flock of over 100 White Pelicans. Also learned that the Moorhen is now called the Common Gallinule. Meanwhile, Don took my bike to the Don West Flea Market Birke Repair Shop and had a new back tire installed on my bicycle.

Sunday - still rainy - vegetation is greener all the time. Highlight of the day was attending the Christmas Concert of the University of Texas-Pan American's award-winning Mariachi Aztlan Band at the UTPA Fine Arts Auditorium. The show also included performances by the Luz de Luna Folkloric Dance Ensemble and McAllen High School's Mariachi Band. It was a Christmas music day with carolling back at TG in the Clubhouse at 6 PM.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

December 2011 - to Texas

Friday Dec 9 to Wednesday Dec 13/2011
Time to pack up and head south. We left Lakefield at 9 AM and headed south. Lunch at Don's parents in Toronto and then to London for dinner and spending the night at our friend Susan Reid's new home. Susan had just retired from a 35 year career at Bell.
Saturday we drove south to Louisville, Kentucky and stayed in the Marriott Springhill Suites - thanks to Tom's points. We had a nice dinner at the Cardinal Hall of Fame Cafe - showcased all the Louisville sports teams. Sunday's drive took us to Tunica, Mississippi to stay in a Harrah Casino there and indulged in a Paula Dean dinner - Southern Home Cooking. Up early on Monday morning, we drove 13 hours - through Arkansas and into Texas - past Dallas and Austin - to San Antonio. That evening, Don relaxed from the long drive and I explored the San Antonio Riverwalk - to enjoy the lights and took a boat tour to know the landmarks for touring the next day.
Tuesday was spent enjoying the sights of San Antonio. We started out on the Riverwalk and decided that we would each do what we wanted - Don didn't want to keep up with Mary the Tourist. I spent the morning learning all about the Alamo. The Alamo is known as "the cradle of Texas Liberty" where Davey Crockett, Jim Bowie and William Barrett Travis and 186 men sacrificed their lives for Texas independence. I did the audio tour - 33 stops, saw the 20 minute film, had a private 11 AM tour of the Alamo grounds - no one else signed up? and checked out the model of the Alamo - housed in a history shop across from the actual Alamo - this model is owned by Phil Collins and he does a narrative of the battle of the Alamo - he is a collector of Alamo relics.
From the Alamo I stopped in at the Menger Hotel - where Roosevelt recruited his Roughriders in the Bar there. On to the RiverCenter Mall for lunch in the Food Court - they had about 6 dental chairs in the open area of the mall - for teeth whitening (first time I have seen this anywhere and I wanted to mention it to Katie). I wandered around all afternoon - learning more about the Riverwalk and visited La Villita - site of the first neighbourhood dating back to the 1750s and now has artisan shops in the old houses. I returned to the hotel after 4 PM and relaxed before returning to the Riverwalk for a lovely 3 course dinner at the Ibiza Restaurant at the Hilton Hotel. Back to the hotel for a swim and a hot tub on the 3rd floor rooftop of the hotel. (Forgot the camera today - will try to put in a few pictures later.)
Wednesday - 4 hour drive to Alamo Trophy Gardens.