Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Day Off From Work

It’s funny, you think when you retire you will have a carefree life, but we human beings being who we are, it turns out retirement looks a whole lot like the life we had before. Or maybe it’s because we choose the lives we get?

We are busy. We have taken on obligations. We have deadlines to meet, meetings to attend, groceries to buy, church duties, volunteer jobs – people are counting on us. It’s very much what our working lives looked like, even then, we had jobs that weren’t always fun, but had a lot of moving parts that we thoroughly enjoyed. I mostly worked in libraries, fund raising and social services; AdventureMan worked managing people and resources. Not a whole lot has changed, except the hours are better.

But it is easier to take a day off. Today I am usually at my volunteer job, but when they called last night to ask if I would be coming in, I just laughed and said “No, see you next week.” They were probably as glad as I was; less prep for them.

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No, I needed today to bake my Soused Apple Cake for the Thanksgiving gathering, chop the nuts for the Mom’s Cranberry Salad, pack up the Rosettes, and get the broccoli marinating. I know, I know, broccoli for Thanksgiving? Yes. We get older, we need broccoli. I soak it in good olive oil and garlic, with a little salt, then roast it on Thanksgiving at 400° for about 30 minutes and it is tasty and delicious and you hardly know you are eating broccoli.

Soused Apple Cake
From Quail Country: The Junior League of Albany, Georgia.
If you don’t have brandy, don’t bother with this one – the brandy give it the punch, even though all the alcohol cooks off during baking. Kids hate this cake, adults love it.

4 cups cooking apple
1 cup raisins
brandy

2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg (grate it fresh, it matters!)
2 teaspoons baki
ng soda
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup salad oil
1/4 teaspoon mace
2 eggs
1 cup chopped pecans

2 cups flour
whipped cream

Peel, core and finely chop apples; put into a bowl with raisins and cover with brandy, and soak overnight. Drain apples and raisins, set aside.

Combine sugar, salad oil and eggs. Set aside. Sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, salt and mace. Add to oil mixture. Mix in apples, pecans and raisins. Mix well and pour into an oiled 9 x 13 baking dish. Cook in 325 degree oven for 1 hour.

Cut into squares, serve topped with sweetened whipped cream. Yield 15 – 20 servings.

** I use a tiny bit of ground cloves instead of mace. I also have used all sorts of whiskeys and brandies, but my favorite remains calvados or . . . rum! It is one of my favorite recipes.

I need to get in and out of the kitchen, finish my clean up so AdventureMan can make his famous Pecan Pie – he makes it with chocolate, it looks very fancy and tastes divine. Everyone oooooh! and aaaaaahs! when they see his pecan pie. :-)

There is a great joy in this work, knowing we will be with people we enjoy, people who are full of thanks and interesting stories. We will do a lot of catching up and share a wonderful meal. Happy Thanksgiving!

November 25, 2014 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, Food, Recipes, Thanksgiving | Leave a comment

Soaked

It’s just the season, and it’s not so bad. It’s one of those days when I just have a lot to do, and after ‘working’ the Angel Tree, I hurry to the commissary. Just as I have checked out, we hear the thunder and lightning, and the rain comes down in sheets.

It shows no signs of stopping. When it lightens just a little, I rush to the car, which is not too far away, and by the time I get there, my dress is soaked. We stand under the car door, which, thank God, opens in the “up” direction, as the bagger unloads the groceries, and then I hurry home, and AdventureMan unloads while I, shivering in my wet dress, change clothes.

I don’t get to wear this dress often. It is a beautiful, thin, light wool challis, from Iran. Too warm for most of the year here, and not warm enough for our record cold days. It is a beautiful, subtle paisley with burgundy, cobalt and emerald paisleys intricately strewn on a khaki background. I love the pattern, and I am terrified the soaking will shrink the wool.

I had some studies to do for a class I am taking, I had some preparations to do for Thanksgiving, roaring upon us this week, and I needed to do laundry. After I had done all that, I was catching up with “Alaska, the Last Frontier” when AdventureMan came to me and said “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry?” I queried. “Why?”

“We wanted to go to the handbells concert today, and I forgot!”

I looked at the clock. The concert was half over. Even if I wanted to go, just getting ready and getting there would take up the time the concert had left.

I am great in the mornings. I get up, have my routine, get things done. I check the calendar, I am ORGANIZED. But something happens to me by late afternoon, things just slip my mind. I get involved with a quilting project or reading a book, or . . . . or whatever. By the time I remember a late afternoon activity, I’ve missed it. Oh aaarrgh.

I’m thinking when I look at my calendar in the morning, I should set my alarm for any activity I have scheduled in the afternoon, but I don’t always keep my phone nearby . . .

So begins my week.

November 24, 2014 Posted by | Aging, Quality of Life Issues, Thanksgiving, Weather | 2 Comments

Brother’s BBQ

It’s getting close to Christmas, and AdventureMan had asked that I take a ride with him to check out Earth Products, and then have lunch with him at Brother’s BBQ. Between you and me, AdventureMan is purely a sucker for BBQ, but he took me to Tudo’s for lunch yesterday, my Pensacola comfort food, and it isn’t a struggle for me to enjoy a good BBQ, so I was happy to make him happy today. :-)

It’s what I love about AdventureMan. He totally gets me. He grumbles now and then about how hard I am to buy for. He tells our friends “she doesn’t want diamonds, just picks out a house now and then.”

But today’s trips to Earth Products was totally worth it. Earth Products has all kinds of landscaping supplies, including glorious pots! Not the pots you find in the big box stores, but pots that remind me of the Middle East. Great big pots. Urns. Pots that might have stored olive oil in another life, or hidden Ali Baba’s thieves. Pots with elephants on them. Wonderful pots, just exactly the pots for my front porch and the rosemary bushes I want. I almost danced with glee at the number of wonderful pots.

It is a wonderful day, not too hot, not too cold and when we get to Brother’s BBQ, we decide to sit outside.

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Sitting outside has an additional benefit – they are in the process of preparing the chicken and the brisket. They are smoking it right now. The aromas are heavenly.

The porch is a very friendly place to sit, we discover. It’s amazing how many people have discovered Brothers BBQ. They are close to the Navy Base, and have a lot of loyal military customers, but they also have a lot of local and corporate customers, and retired folk popping by. They have dining in, they have carry-out, and they also cater. There is a large area for eating outside, as well as on the porch.

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You can see what they offer on your placemat:

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AdventureMan ordered his usual – BBQ Pulled Pork, with beans and coleslaw:

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I ordered my usual, a dark quarter BBQ chicken, with beans and slaw:

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It was excellent. Give it a try when you are on the west side of town. You can’t miss them, they are where you find the huge column of mouth-watering smoke just off Gulf Beach Highway:

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3309 Gulf Beach Hwy, Pensacola, FL 32507
(850) 455-4744

November 21, 2014 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Christmas, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Family Issues, Gardens, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Restaurant, Shopping | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas . . .

I’m not a person who likes to be rushed, and I am a person who front-loads, who gets things done early, so as not to have to make decisions or preparations in a rush. If I can plan, and execute early, it all falls into place.

So when we had another early cold spell this week, our second ‘unseasonal’ cold spell, so cold we had to cover our more sensitive plants and bring others into protected areas, and with Thanksgiving coming so late this year, I decided I could let myself do a little early Christmas prep.

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No, no tree, not yet, and no lights outside. Time enough for all that, just a little sparkle to get us started. As much as I love real greenery, real garlands, the temperatures here are too high for it it stay green longer than a week, so I use the artificial kind. You’d think the benefit would be no dropping needles, but this stuff also drops ‘needles’, and we laugh at where we find them hiding in August.

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We bought our crêche many years ago in Germany, and it has gone with us everywhere we lived. It has lost a lot of its Germanic moss through the years, but I wouldn’t dream of replacing it:

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The normal crêche occupants through the years have been supplemented by extra sheep and camels, and actually, by French santons, extra wise men, an angel ornament . . . hmmm, maybe it’s getting a little kitchy, but we wouldn’t sacrifice a single thing. One of our Saudi friends contributed a line of camels :-)

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In France and in Germany, crafters make the cutest sheep, and we found ourselves buying them at Christmas or crafts markets.

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And, from Doha, The Church of the Epiphany, our “Aboona” or Our Father, the Lords Prayer written in Arabic calligraphy, one of our treasures.

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Last, but not least, time to change the hallway quilt, and The 12 Days of Christmas will reign for more like 40 days :-)

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November 20, 2014 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, Christmas, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Holiday, Living Conditions, Middle East, Pensacola, Weather | , | 2 Comments

ISIS Communication

Article from The Daily Beast

RUN SILENT
11.14.14

ISIS Keeps Getting Better at Dodging U.S. Spies
There’s a reason ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi has proven so hard to take out. He and his followers have become really good at keeping their communications covert.
On Thursday, around the same time ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi announced that he had survived a U.S. airstrike and promised in a recorded message to “erupt volcanos of jihad,” American officials were meeting to discuss just how hard it was to track the militant group.

Baghdadi and his followers have proven exceptionally difficult to track and kill because they’re encrypting their communications and taking steps to avoid being detected by U.S. surveillance, according to several current and former officials. Without American intelligence operatives on the ground in ISIS’s home base of Syria—and with only a limited number of surveillance planes in the air—those communications are one of the only surefire ways to keep tabs on ISIS.

In addition to encryption that American officials say has proven very difficult to crack, ISIS is also using a commercially available service that permanently deletes messages sent via the Internet, making them nearly impossible to intercept, according to an individual who was briefed on the issue Thursday. This person didn’t name the service, but one application ISIS has been known to use is called FireChat, which allows users to send messages to each other without connecting to the Internet.

U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials told The Daily Beast that ISIS has adjusted its communications patterns because it knows that the group is constantly being watched. Fighters have been taking extra precautions for months, but the length of time that it took the U.S. to target Baghdadi—six weeks after airstrikes began in Syria and more than three months after they began in Iraq—and the fact that he wasn’t killed in the attack suggests that ISIS is practicing tight controls on their communications, especially at the top of the organization.

“These guys have a level of discipline. They will enforce through the ranks not using cellphones,” said the individual who was briefed on ISIS counter-surveillance techniques. The group has also used couriers to convey some messages in order to avoid digital communications altogether.

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel acknowledged that ISIS is ducking U.S. spies, particularly now that the military is bombing the group. “ISIL fighters have been forced to alter their tactics—maneuvering in smaller groups, hiding large equipment, and changing their communications methods,” Hagel said, using the government’s preferred acronym for the militant group.

A former U.S. official said that another factor has been complicating efforts to find ISIS members: the lack of combat troops on the ground to follow up on any leads collected by intelligence agencies or drones, which are monitoring the battlefield from the air. “When you literally have a force on the ground, you’re in a better position to take advantage of these communications,” the former official said.

In 2007, the National Security Agency tracked the computers and cellphones of members of al Qaeda in Iraq—ISIS’s predecessor—and then told ground forces where to find the fighters. That cycle of intelligence-gathering and capturing or killing fighters helped turn the tide of combat operations. But no such cycle exists now in Iraq or Syria.

“The easiest day of the air campaign against ISIS was the first day,” said Christopher Harmer, an analyst with the Institute for the Study of War. U.S. pilots knew the locations of ISIS command and control facilities and storage depots, and to an extent the group was taken at least partially by surprise, since it didn’t know the precise time the strikes would begin. “Past that first day or two of easy targets, ISIS predictably dispersed into the civilian population. They quit using high-power radios, satellite and cellphones, starting moving to a dispersed command and control model,” Harmer said.

With ISIS proving an elusive target, the intelligence agencies have taken to monitoring communications of Assad regime officials to find out what they are saying about ISIS. The Wall Street Journal reported that intelligence analysts have treated the Assad communications cautiously, however, because private conversations among regime officials have proven difficult to verify.

“The easiest day of the air campaign against ISIS was the first day. Past that, ISIS predictably dispersed into the civilian population. They quit using high power radios, satellite and cell phones, starting moving to a dispersed command and control model.”

ISIS members may be harder to track, but on the flip side, persistent U.S. electronic surveillance, as well as overhead monitoring by drones, has constrained the group. “At the end of the day, an intelligence organization [conducting surveillance] forces two choices: Communicate and be at risk, or don’t communicate and fail to coordinate,” said the former U.S. official. “Should I encrypt my communications? Should I use onion routers? Should I use cut-outs?” Those would be the kind of questions this former official said he would ask if he were on the militants’ side.

Onion routers refers to the TOR network, a system that allows users to mask their location and communicate anonymously online. But the number of users connecting from Iraq is low, around 2,000, down from a high of more than 15,000 in June, according to the TOR Project, which helps with the ongoing development the system. Connections from Syria are also down, with only about 2,500 users are connecting from there, the group said. It’s unclear whether ISIS is using the routing system, which has also been used by Syrian rebel groups fighting to overthrow the regime of Bashar Al-Assad.

ISIS isn’t new to the counter-surveillance game. But current and former officials debated whether disclosures by Edward Snowden about the massive reach of the NSA tipped the fighters off and led them to be more cautious when communicating with each other.

One U.S. intelligence official said ISIS has “likely learned a lot from recent unauthorized disclosures, and as many of their forces are familiar with the U.S. from their time in AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq], they have adapted well to avoiding detection.”

November 14, 2014 Posted by | Communication, Counter-terrorism, Political Issues | , | Leave a comment

Danny Lyon Handbell Concert November 23rd at 4:00

Pensacola has the most amazing breadth and depth of talent, and so many things to do. One of my DO NO MISS events is any concert with Danny Lyon and his handbell ringers.

Danny is so knowledgeable that people come from miles around, from other states, to learn his techniques. He is a patient trainer, and his teaching pays off; he has a steady stream of handbell acolytes with a greater and greater scope of knowledge. His concerts are a WOW.

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From the Christ Church bulletin:

The many aspects of the art of handbell ringing
Pensacola’s own Danny Lyons, with his increasingly (and
internationally) wide reputation for artistry and innovation in the art
of solo handbell ringing, is joined by The Bellissimo Handbell
Quartet, of which he is a part; and The Christ Church Ringers, this
parish’s handbell band, of which he is the director. Suggested
donation: $10.

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November 10, 2014 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cultural, Music | Leave a comment

Protein Tau Alzheimer Key?

This is hopeful news from AOL Healthnews My family has a history of living long; my Mother is 92 and still has all her marbles. Staving off dementia is as key as keeping your body fit if you live to be a ripe old age.

Is a Protein in the Brain Key to Alzheimer’s?
By Dennis Thompson, HealthDay News

The malfunction of a protein, tau, is the likely culprit behind Alzheimer’s. When it malfunctions, brain cells die, a study finds.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Malfunction of a key brain protein called tau is the likely culprit behind Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, a new study in mice concludes.

Neurons — highly specialized nerve cells in the brain — appear to die when tau malfunctions and fails to clear the cells of unwanted and toxic proteins, explained Charbel Moussa, head of the Laboratory for Dementia and Parkinsonism at Georgetown University School of Medicine, in Washington, D.C.

This means drugs that replace the function of tau in these brain cells are likely to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, he said.

“A strategy like this will give us hope that we can delay or stabilize the disease progression,” Moussa said.

Tau has long been a prime suspect in the search for the cause of Alzheimer’s disease. The brains of Alzheimer’s patients wind up clogged with twisted protein threads made of tau, particularly in regions important to memory.

But researchers have been at a loss to explain why tau might cause Alzheimer’s, and whether the tangles of tau are more important than another hallmark of Alzheimer’s, plaques made of a protein called amyloid beta that fill the spaces between the brain’s nerve cells.

Moussa said his experiments with mice have shown that tau works to keep neurons naturally free of amyloid beta and other toxic proteins.

When tau malfunctions, the neurons begin to spit amyloid beta out into the space between the brain cells, where the protein sticks together and forms plaques, he said.

“When tau does not function, the cell cannot remove the garbage,” Moussa said. The result is cell death, he explained.

Tests on the brain cells of mice revealed that removing all tau impaired the neurons’ ability to clear out amyloid beta, according to findings published Oct. 31 in the journal Molecular Neurodegeneration. But if researchers reintroduced tau into brain cells, the neurons were better able to remove accumulated amyloid beta from the cells.

Moussa said his study suggests the remaining amyloid beta inside the neuron destroys the cells, not the plaques that build up outside. The mouse experiments also showed that fewer plaques accumulate outside the cell when tau is functioning.

Malfunctioning tau can occur as part of the aging process or due to genetic changes. As people grow older, some tau can malfunction while enough normal tau remains to help clear the garbage and keep neurons alive. “That explains the confusing clinical observations of older people who have plaque buildup, but no dementia,” Moussa explained in a Georgetown University news release.

In this study, Moussa also explored the possible use of a cancer drug called nilotinib to force neurons to keep themselves free of garbage, with the help of some remaining functional tau.

“This drug can work if there is a higher percentage of good to bad tau in the cell,” added Moussa, whose work was funded in part by a grant from Merck & Co., the pharmaceutical company.

Heather Snyder, director of medical and scientific operations for the Alzheimer’s Association, said Moussa’s findings are interesting but not conclusive.

“They’re saying that tau may have an earlier role than we currently know. That’s as far as I would go,” Snyder said. “We still don’t know how all the pieces come together.”

Snyder said new imaging technology that allows doctors to track tau buildup in a person’s brain over time may help solve this question in the future.

Also, experts say, results of animal experiments don’t necessarily apply to humans.

But Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, said the new study adds to the growing evidence that “the role of tau is fundamental in the disease process.”

“Developing therapeutics for tau is a high priority,” Petersen said. “Not easy, not simple, but it could be very fruitful.”

November 10, 2014 Posted by | Aging, Circle of Life and Death, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Health Issues, Quality of Life Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Where is Kajo Keji, South Sudan?

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Today the church is praying for Kajo Keji, South Sudan, the world’s newest country. While the world moves on, there is still so much unrest in a part of Africa that went barely noticed until oil was discovered there and the janjawi’in began systematically killing off villages and towns.

Today I pray for my friend Manyang, who visited us from South Sudan and who has rarely known a time in his life when the South Sudan was not being attacked.

November 10, 2014 Posted by | Character, Cultural, Dharfur, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, South Sudan | Leave a comment

Vic’s Touchdown Cafe Near RaceTrack, LA

We’re headed home again, but the day has dawned shrouded in a thick Halloween-y fog drifting up off the bayous and covering the low lying roads. We get on a fast road, and decide to have breakfast, hoping the fog will break.

We exit almost as soon as we got on the road, headed South on a road heading toward the Gulf, looking for something that is not fast food. And there it is, on the left, we just passed it, so we circle back for breakfast at Vic’s, Breakfast Lunch Dinner.

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As it turns out, I believe the real name is Vic’s Touchdown Cafe. The interior is full of sports trophies, banners, team memorabilia, and stuffed deer heads. There are other customers, eating breakfast, chatting with a man whom I believe is probably Vic. We ordered breakfast off the plastic menu table mats, and settled back to listen and learn.

People in Louisiana are hospitable, and kind. They asked us questions, shared some local lore and when I asked Vic if he had any milk, he opened a little bottle of milk just for me and put it on the table so I could have milk in my coffee. I was impressed, but I get the impression he thought it was just good manners. My kind of place.

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I didn’t take photos of the food; it might have spoiled the mood. It was traditional breakfast; eggs, bacon, biscuit and AdventureMan had hash browns. It was all good, even the coffee, and even better because it was not fast good. This was a great stop.

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By the time we had finished, the fog had lifted and we had clear sailing all the way back to Pensacola :-)

November 8, 2014 Posted by | Character, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Natural Beauty at Pointe-Aux-Chenes

Pointe-Aux-Chenes was probably one of the most beautiful drives on our trip. You start off driving along a small canal, and you’re going to need your smart phone or a map to make the right turns to get to this isolated location.

We had read there was an wildlife observation point at the Pointe-Aux-Chenes Nature Refuge, but we looked and looked and never found it. Never mind, there was so much to see.

As you go south, and you get closer and closer to the Gulf, houses go up on stilts.

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This is still very much a fishing community:

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Is this a mistake? A misunderstanding? The area is called Pointe-Aux-Chenes, Oak Pointe, but this sign refers to the tribe as Pointe-Aux-Chiens, Dog Point Indians. Hmmmm.

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It is so hard to capture anything that looks like a dolphin, even though at sundown, the place was full of dolphin – or porpoises, I am not sure I know the difference. Even though I didn’t get a good shot, it was a glorious place to be at that very moment.

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Can you see the eagles perched in the distant trees?

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For a moment, I thought I was in the Camargue with it’s wild ponies, but a local man said he thought these belonged to someone and just cropped on this salty grass at the end of the road.

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So many beautiful things to see in one spot!

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November 5, 2014 Posted by | Birds, Environment, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , | Leave a comment

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