We did this same cruise with the same house guests two years ago, and . . . we never get tired of it. We don’t do it that often, and it is always fresh and relaxing.
We booked with Olin Marler Charters out of Destin. Fortuitously, we had a Groupon. It was so easy, buy the tickets online, call for a reservation, be at the dock at 5 p.m. for boarding.
Yes, it can be a crowd. Yes, you always have to know where you want to be and head directly there so you will have a good view, although people do wander. Yes, you have to hope that people who take young children aboard will be responsible and watch them like hawks. Other than that, these cruises are fun and easy.
There are other cruises. The others that we saw were all very crowded, people packed like sardines on little barge-like boats. We like a boat with a couple levels and lots of places where you can take photographs without having to crawl over anyone – or having people crawl over us! – to get a photo. This is our second time with Olin Marler, and I expect it will not be our last – it’s just so much fun.
We saw lots of dolphins. Dolphins are not so easy to photograph as they surface and dive, oh aaargh. If you want to see dolphins from our last trip, click on the blue hypertext in the first paragraph.
Also lots of seagulls and lots of sunset Great times with special old friends from Germany, our sons have been best of friends for years, too.
This is the boat they took us out on, the yellow one:
When the sun actually sets, it gets cold quickly. We had a very warm day, maybe 80 degrees F. and it dropped almost immediately by 30 degrees. Fortunately, we knew this happens and came prepared this time
Great way to end a day, followed by dinner with the same good friends.
We had endured water aerobics, quickly dressed and hung up our swim clothes, and driven to Mobile en route to Dauphin Island with our visiting friends from Norfolk, old travel buddies and long time friends from Germany. As we left I-10. heading south toward the Island, we are starving, and all we see are McDonalds, Arby’s, fried chicken and Asian buffets.
“No! No!” we wail, and hold out for something better.
As soon as we saw it, we all knew. This was IT:
Look at that cow’s head! You take one look, and you know this place is going to be an original. Little did we know . . .
As we drove into the parking, we asked some people leaving how the food was. “Excellent! The best!” they said, and other people leaving chimed in saying “You won’t be sorry.”
As we walked in, we were greeted by “Smokey” Dembo himself, who said “I saw you taking photos outside, don’t you want a photo with me in it?”
Yes! Yes! I do! I do!
Smokey, as it turns out, is our kind of guy. Former military, from this small little town outside of Mobile, his dream was to own a place just like this, with his father, who taught him how to grill. One day, shortly after he retired, he was driving his daughter to soccer practice and he saw a for sale sign on this building, and on his way back, stopped – and made a deal. That was 11 years ago, and he’s never looked back. This is a happy man, living his dream.
He spends Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday marinating and preparing his meats. He is only open Thursday, Friday, Saturday (maybe Sunday, I can’t remember. Or maybe not; Sunday may be for church. Actually, you’d better call, because I might have gotten it all wrong. I KNOW he is open on Fridays and Saturdays, and I know he serves breakfast on Thursdays and Fridays, but the rest is foggy . . . . )
The aromas of BBQ are killing us; we have to order right away:
As we are waiting for the food, we continue to talk with Smokey and to learn about his restaurant. He has a wonderful wall, a tribute to his family and his family history:
I apologize. We were starving. When the food arrived, we totally forgot to take any photos at all, not a single photo of the boneless BBQ pork, nor of the potato salad nor of the cole slaw, nor of the baked beans. Although we are a very talky bunch, when the food came, we ate in awed silence. It was so GOOOOOOOD.
We cannot wait to see Smokey again. This is some fine BBQ.
I was making a salad to go with today’s lunch and remembered AdventureMan warning me we were just about out of roasted pecans, and needed more. It is a cool – almost cold – rainy rainy day in Pensacola, a perfect day for cranking up the oven to roast some pecans. We still have a wealth of pecans from a generous donation made by my dear daughter-in-law’s Texas aunt, who has a heart as big as Texas.
As I roast the pecans (425°F for about 10 minutes) the house becomes fragrant with that luxurious smell. I am transported back to Kuwait, where I remember paying a fortune for a small packet of pecans I needed to bake a pecan pie. Normally, we didn’t even bother looking at the prices, but the price on those pecans was so high I really had to think about buying them, it’s like paying an extortionist. But I needed pecans. I paid.
Now, we have this luxurious blessing of pecans, and not just pecans, but these fresh, fragrant, tasty Texas pecans, and as they roast, they are blessing my entire house with a rich roasty fragrance. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. This wonderful aunt gave us this wealth of pecans, and the gift just keeps on giving and giving, through the Christmas season, well into January – and we still have pecans left. I’ve paid a lot more and gotten a lot less joy from a purchase. I think of this wonderful woman and her gift every time we use them.
Yes, I roasted a lot of pecans, because we sprinkle them on all kinds of things, and that roasted flavor just enriches everything they touch. Yes, they keep in an air-tight container, for as long as it takes for us to eat them, which can be two or three weeks.
And here is the salad, post-pecans but pre-salad dressing:
It’s another luxurious blessing. About twelve years ago, when we had a posting in Germany, we packed everything into storage and just bought what we needed to live with. As days go by, however, you – or I, anyway – just need a few little things to make life nice. You pick up a few gorgeous dessert plates here, a few Christmas ornaments there . . . some cookie sheets, just a little extra, and before you know it, life is no longer so simple. To help keep it simple, I mostly bought things I could just leave behind when we left the country to head to the next country, or I transported things home in those big bags we used to be able to take on the transoceanic flights. I ended up having to rent a storage locker in Seattle for all the treasures I accumulated in our second round of overseas living, LOL.
The first year we were living once again in Germany, as we were buying some wardrobe units, I spotted two salad / serving bowls at IKEA. They aren’t costly porcelain, they are just ceramic bowls, but I love the shape, and inside each one are two beautiful purply-blue irises. I looked at them and loved their conception, their design. I pointed them out to AdventureMan, and then promptly forgot them. Because he is a very smart man, I found them under the Christmas tree a few months later, and was thrilled to recognize them. We have both treasured them ever since.
With each subsequent move, I carefully wrapped those bowls and used them again and again at each posting. We pull them out all the time, these bowls are a perfect size for a salad-to-share or a side dish, and to this day, they look like new. It makes me laugh; I’ve had much more expensive dishes which were not so long for this world; these are go-to serving bowls, and still look brand new.
So today I am feeling extraordinarily thankful for the great luxury of pecans, the wonderful aroma of their roasting, and the great blessing of serving them in a bowl which gives us joy every time we use them.
It’s COLD this morning, 42°F, 5°C, and I have donned my long pink flannel nightgown. I grew up in flannel nightgowns, which are not very attractive, but they are nice and warm. When they are brand new, they are too hot, my current one is about half-old, and I have one that I know I need to part with – it is so thin it tears at the slightest encouragement – but I love them when they get old and thin, LOL!
Once I make the leap to scrap one of these trusty flannel nightgowns, they are great for polishing silver. I know, I know, who polishes silver anymore? My sister Big Diamond says she puts her silver in the dishwasher, and uses it every day because people just don’t entertain formally as we once did.
Living in a place that’s warm most of the time, my flannel nightgowns don’t get a lot of wear and are lasting a lot longer than they used to. Ditto all my beautiful winter clothes. Vanity, vanity, I spent money of beautiful wools in Germany, Austria and England for hard winters back in Edmonds, WA, and now I have a closet full of beautiful winter clothes that I rarely get a chance to wear. Today, I can pull out an old friend and wear it!
I love it when an orchestra has a sense of humor
This is a furniture store in Germany, where the sign says “Do Not Get On the Bed” LLOOLLL!
We are headed west, and our friends suggest we take a route which will take us through Fredericksburg, TX. From the time we get on the road, we are surprised – good fast roads, even the backroads, wildflowers along the highway, and, soon, a wonderful store where we found Mayhew Jelly:
Continuing on, we arrive in Fredericksburg just about noon, after driving past countless tempting wineries and farms, all with great old German names. We find a place to park and look for a place to eat, finding the Lindenbaum and oh – they have Zigeunerschnitzle, schnitzel Gypsy style, which we love. Actually, when we lived in Germany, we sort of stopped eating schnitzle because it is meat and then deep friend meat, with fattening sauces, but it’s been years, and we couldn’t resist.
Oh! It was so good!
We decided we need to stay the night in Fredericksburg; there is the Nimitz Museum which is calling my husband’s name, and there are little shops calling mine. As we are eating lunch, we find a place in a Fredericksburg Magazine, The Austin Street Retreat, but to book there, you have to go to a place called the Gastehaus where they have a bunch of B & B’s and you get the reservation through them and then go to the place, which is a really good thing because some of them are a little hard to find.
We book Annie’s cottage – and when we get there, we are delighted. It is very French, a cottage all to ourselves, quiet, private, a great retreat:
And then AdventureMan heads off is his direction, and I in mine, both of us finishing up about the same time and heading back to the cottage to rest and plan our next day’s travels.
Dinner was at Mamacita’s, a very popular place with both local people and tourists, and reminded me of Chevy’s Fresh Mex – they made their own chips, and our server was very polished and attentive; we really liked the way Jason took care of us:
This is the schnitzle from Lindenbaum, but I can’t figure out how to get it in the right place.
We kept wanting to go to Five Sisters Blues Cafe – everyone tells us it is a really fun place with great food – but it takes us a while to find it. I’m printing the Google map for you; it is at the corner of Belmont and DeVilliers. Not that hard to find if you know Pensacola, but we are still learning Pensacola.
“Where’ve you been?” our waitress, Lisa, asked as we were seated. We must have looked goofy, we’ve never been there before, so we said, “this is our first time” and she laughed and said “I know that! I haven’t seen you before! We’ve been open a year! Where’ve you been?”
We just laughed, she had really caught us off guard. The place was packed, on a Wednesday afternoon, people all around us eating giant salads, plates heaped with fried chicken, everything we saw coming out to the tables looked delicious. Lisa brought us iced-tea, and I lost my heart, look, REAL mint in the tea, just like home . . .
We were overwhelmed. There is a lot going on in the restaurant, people laughing, art works on the walls, a new menu to peruse and we don’t know what we want. We finally decide to share the sampler platter with two fried green tomatoes, 4 crab cakes and 4 shrimp, which came with three very tasty sauces – WOW. Wowed right off the top:
AdventureMan even said, in wonder “This crab cake really tastes like crab with a C!” and it was. You know, the other kind, that calls itself crab, but is really flavored Alaskan pollock, and not crab at all? This was real crab, and it tasted crabby. Yummm.
AdventureMan had a vegetable platter. Now this is Southern cooking at it’s best, so don’t expect ‘vegetable’ to be Vegan. Even Mac and Cheese qualifies as a vegetable, and beans usually have some pork to flavor them, etc. He said the entire plate was delicious.
I tried something I had never had before, catish over grits. I never thought I liked grits until our daughter-in-laws stepmother (I know, I know, it sounds complicated, and it is another thing we have in common with people all over the world; we all have complicated relationships) made Smoked Gouda Grits one night with her Barbecued Shrimp and a whole new world opened up to me. Wooo HOOO. Anyway, I didn’t eat all the grits; the catfish was filling, but this dish knocked my socks off and I don’t think I could duplicate it, so I’m just going to have to go back to Five Sisters every time I get a craving for it:
If we are what we eat, we are becoming very Southern.
Lisa, the waitress, was a lot of fun, helpful in making recommendations, quick when we asked for anything, and she told us about an upcoming special jazz night that we really needed to attend. OK. That sounded like fun.
Lisa was right. It was really fun. We walked in, early, and every table was taken. There was a Jazz Society of Pensacola membership table at the entrance, and the lady just laughed and said “Look! There are lots of chairs empty, just go to a table and ask if you can join them.”
Hmm. We’re actually used to that, living in Germany all those years, but I didn’t know you could do that here. We ended up at a table with another couple, and as we chatted, we had a really good time with them. They were so gracious and welcoming to people they had never met and who aren’t even members (yet) of the Jazz Society. We laughed a lot. He told us that they didn’t have a lot of rules, but that when things got lively, no oxygen machines were allowed on the dance floor because they might explode, LLOOLLL!
This place was ROCKIN’. People were dancing between the tables, people from young to old, just having a great time listening to some very very good music. Within an hour, there were no empty seats at all, some people were standing, and others were eating out on the covered patio. It was raining (rain in Pensacola during a drought is a good thing) and the evening was called Monday Night Blues. How cool is that? The atmosphere was perfect.
Of course we had dinner. AdventureMan had BBQ on Red Beans and Rice and I had the Shrimp Basket. No Mom, I did not eat the French Fries.
I did eat ONE of the hushpuppies. I could not resist.
Five Sisters Blues Cafe is just a really fun place, immaculately clean, great food and great service. We can’t wait to go back again.
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” 13But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” 14I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’
“I forgot to set my alarm” AdventureMan said, coming down the stairs, “we missed the first service.”
Today is Ash Wednesday, the day Lent begins for Christians. We go to church, the priest puts a cross on our forehead in ash, to remind us “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”, that our life here on earth is only temporary, and that our true home is heaven.
It’s easier to believe that in your gut when you are an expat.
My cousin wrote to me, and in his email, he wrote that I write about my own culture the same way I wrote about Germany, about Qatar, about Kuwait – as an expat, as an outside observer. Pensacola is like my foreign assignments; I could live here for twenty years (God willing) and I will never be a native, I will always be from somewhere else, the kind of person about whom others will say “she must not be from around here.” I am guessing I will get more comfortable, more confident, but I will always be not-quite-right among the natives.
And that is how we are supposed to be living here on earth – as people not-quite-right, as people eager to return to our true heavenly home.
Lent in my own country is odd to me, now. In a foreign country, you are accustomed to thinking of yourself as a minority; your differentness makes you more aware or who you are, and what you value. There is a part of me that thinks Lent would be a lot easier if, like Qatar, and like Kuwait, and like Saudi Arabia, religious practices were state enforced, like everyone in the USA fasted at the same time, maybe nobody would sell meat or chocolate or alcohol. And then, I think “but what is the point?” The point is our own sacrifice. Is it a sacrifice if it is enforced from the outside?
I can’t sacrifice cussing in traffic this year. Pensacola traffic, by the grace of God, is nearly non-existent, and it is mellow. I’m not even tempted. I’m trying to figure out what I will sacrifice.
Father Neal Goldsborough at Christ Church Episcopal told us on Sunday how all the children come in from the Episcopal Day School to have the ashes imposed, and how poignant it is for him, and I can’t help but think of all the soldiers he has been with at their death, mere children, children of God, and how he must see the faces of these soldiers in the faces of these tiny children. My heart would weep, even knowing they are on their way home.