“I am so thankful we had such good weather when our house guests were here,” I said to AdventureMan. Not only was it raining steadily as we headed home from the commissary, but we had thunder and lightning early in the morning, and it meant no water-aerobics class – pools are not a safe place to be when there is a thunderstorm outside.
“And I am thankful to have a garage.” he added, and I totally agree. When you have a big load of groceries is not a great time for a rain storm if you are toting them inside, pelted by a pouring rain.
We thought of all the places we have lived. I thought of all the groceries we have toted. Probably, for me, the worst was in Kuwait, where we had underground parking (very nice protection from the heat and merciless sun) and you had to take groceries and other shopping up in an elevator. We’ve lived in many countries, however, with no garage at all, and carried groceries inside through all kinds of weather.
And the rain keeps coming down . . . .
One of the reasons AdventureMan and I have been married almost 40 years is that we agree on some very irrational basics – like nothing says romance on Valentine’s Day like Italian food. He had recently been to Petrella’s and suggested I might like it – so off we went, on the worst day of the year to try to get in someplace without a reservation. I remembered all our Valentine’s Day dinners in Kuwait, trying to get in someplace, anyplace, Italian was out of the question, fully booked. We usually ended up bribing someone to let us have an early dinner, promising to be out before our later-eating Kuwaiti Valentines diners arrived; they would never even know they had shared their reservation with us.
We were in luck. Although every table in Petrella’s was taken, within five minutes one group left and we got their booth. AdventureMan had truly nailed this one; this is a neighborhood eatery, full of people who have been eating at Petrella’s for a long time. There were lots of couples, like us, but also many groups of four, many working people having their daily lunch, and a very large table of women affiliated in some way. We speculated, maybe church? Maybe a retirement home? Maybe a club?
Petrella’s took me back to my childhood, where Italian food was “foreign” food and very exotic. People didn’t eat out so much. The very most special restaurants were steak restaurants, or clubs. Even pizza was new, not uncommon; there were frozen pizzas and home-made pizza dough, but it wasn’t the normal American kind of food – meat, potatoes, veg. It was kind of “spicy.” Yes, I can hear you laughing, but things were different, eating out was not a daily or even a weekly event, eating out was something you did maybe once a month. Even then, it was sometimes, hamburgers! Dairy Queen was about the fastest-food there was and there were no McDonalds or Burger King chains, no Kentucky Fried Chicken. There was A&W Hamburgers; there were ice-cream and soda bars, and of course, in Seattle, there was Chinese and Japanese foods.
Petrella’s is comfortable. The salads and the dishes they served are the dishes Italian restaurants have been serving for a hundred years. The lunch specials are all under $8.00, and they all come with salad and garlic bread. They take it for granted you are going to need a box to take home the excess; portions are large. We also had our lunches for dinner
This was AdventureMan’s main course, the Baked Spaghetti:
and here was mine, Petrella’s Famous Marsala (with shrimp):
It was comfort food. Nothing fancy or unexpected, but good, honest ingredients, crafted well. It’s a kind of food that calls you back again and again when you want a good reliable meal. I know we will be going back, and we will probably take family and friends, it’s that kind of place.
They have an excellent website, with their complete menu.
I found this article in the Weather Underground News this morning:
DOHA, Qatar — An amount of freshwater almost the size of the Dead Sea has been lost in parts of the Middle East due to poor management, increased demands for groundwater and the effects of a 2007 drought, according to a NASA study.
The study, to be published Friday in Water Resources Research, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, examined data over seven years from 2003 from a pair of gravity-measuring satellites which is part of NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment or GRACE. Researchers found freshwater reserves in parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran along the Tigris and Euphrates river basins had lost 117 million acre feet (144 cubic kilometers) of its total stored freshwater, the second fastest loss of groundwater storage loss after India.
About 60 percent of the loss resulted from pumping underground reservoirs for ground water, including 1,000 wells in Iraq, and another fifth was due to impacts of the drought including declining snow packs and soil drying up. Loss of surface water from lakes and reservoirs accounted for about another fifth of the decline, the study found.
“This rate of water loss is among the largest liquid freshwater losses on the continents,” the authors wrote in the study, noting the declines were most obvious after a drought.
The study is the latest evidence of a worsening water crisis in the Middle East, where demands from growing populations, war and the worsening effects of climate change are raising the prospect that some countries could face sever water shortages in the decades to come. Some like impoverished Yemen blame their water woes on the semi-arid conditions and the grinding poverty while the oil-rich Gulf faces water shortages mostly due to the economic boom that has created glistening cities out of the desert.
In a report released during the U.N. climate talks in Qatar, the World Bank concluded among the most critical problems in the Middle East and North Africa will be worsening water shortages. The region already has the lowest amount of freshwater in the world. With climate change, droughts in the region are expected to turn more extreme, water runoff is expected to decline 10 percent by 2050 while demand for water is expected to increase 60 percent by 2045.
One of the biggest challenges to improving water conservation is often competing demands which has worsened the problem in the Tigris and Euphrates river basins.
Turkey controls the Tigris and Euphrates headwaters, as well as the reservoirs and infrastructure of Turkey’s Greater Anatolia Project, which dictates how much water flows downstream into Syria and Iraq, the researchers said. With no coordinated water management between the three countries, tensions have intensified since the 2007 drought because Turkey continues to divert water to irrigate farmland.
“That decline in stream flow put a lot of pressure on northern Iraq,” Kate Voss, lead author of the study and a water policy fellow with the University of California’s Center for Hydrological Modeling in Irvine, said. “Both the UN and anecdotal reports from area residents note that once stream flow declined, this northern region of Iraq had to switch to groundwater. In an already fragile social, economic and political environment, this did not help the situation.”
Jay Famiglietti, principle investigator of the new study and a hydrologist and UC Irvine professor of Earth System Science, plans to visit the region later this month, along with Voss and two other UC Irvine colleagues, to discuss their findings and raise awareness of the problem and the need for a regional approach to solve the problem.
“They just do not have that much water to begin with, and they’re in a part of the world that will be experiencing less rainfall with climate change,” Famiglietti said. “Those dry areas are getting dryer. They and everyone else in the world’s arid regions need to manage their available water resources as best they can.”
“Happy New Year!” I called out to my Chinese friend in Aqua Aerobics.
“Happy New Year!” she shouted back, puffing just a little.
“Are you going out to celebrate?” I asked, with my find-a-good-Chinese-restaurant-agenda coming out.
“Yes, with a bunch of friends!” she responded.
“Where are you going?” I asked, genuinely curious as to where REAL Chinese people would eat real Chinese food in Pensacola.
“Happy China, over on Mobile Highway,” she told me.
I haven’t had really good Chinese food since leaving Kuwait, where we ate in a little dingy restaurant where a lot of Chinese people also ate. The food was not dumbed down, not at all.
“Will he fix you something special?” I wondered, and she replied that he would, several dishes, ordered ahead, for their large party.
So today, AdventureMan and I struck out to find the Happy China, and we did, to celebrate Chinese New Year, and it was good. I intended to order from the menu, but the buffet looked pretty good, so we decided it would be a way to get an overview. There were many many seafood items, and a noodle bar where you put together a noodle dish and then put it in warm broth to warm it all up. It was fun, the food was really good, and I look forward to going back and ordering off the menu.
On our way out, as we paid the very reasonable bill, I asked if they ever had any of the cats with the raised paws in white china with the colored paint. She said sometimes, but that they fly off the shelves.
“This year we have these ones, in gold, because it is the year of the Snake, you want something in gold,” she instructed me. I kinda liked the glitzy gold anyway, and they were $2.99, LOL, a small price for welcoming wealth into our household. The cat whose right paw is raised welcomes wealth, the left paw raised welcomes children, which are a different kind of wealth and are also welcome in our household, our own son and other people’s children, not more for me, please!
Oh! I had it on my calendar, and then I was so sick I didn’t look at my calendar! Kuwait’s National Day and Liberation Day passed, and I didn’t say congratulations! I am so sorry!
Wishing all my Kuwait friends, in and out of Kuwait, a prosperous, safe and eventful year, with a breakthrough in improving all the infrastructure, so Kuwait will once again be on track for fulfilling it’s true potential.
I love this photo, and I can’t figure out where it came from; it’s not mine. It reminds me how quickly we forget, and what a catastrophe can do to a national mentality. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait was devastating, and the devastation continues, so many years later, 23 years later, an entire generation of young Kuwaitis who only hear these stories as if they were of some ancient time, but a war which changed everything, and shook the forward-looking Kuwaitis so that they now look to the past, and have little trust in the future.
On! On! Kuwait!
I received this three times this morning, in my Intlxpatr mail account. Trust me, Intlxpatr never had an NBK account, not as Intlxpatr. If you get this message, delete. It is a scam:
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.
How can this be? Pensacola is hotter, at seven in the morning, than Kuwait or Doha at mid-afternoon? It is almost 70° at seven in the morning, in JANUARY??? This isn’t right.
I get my daily weather information from Weather Underground. They have a page that allows me to keep track of several cities at one time; they appear at the top of the page of my Pensacola report.
AdventureMan, half way to his goal of becoming a Master Gardener, spent the last week cleaning out the pots and gardens in back, but couldn’t bear to get rid of these two valiant tomato plants which continue bearing well into January. We’ve had delicious tomatoes since August! Who know we would live in a place where you plant tomato seeds in June and continue to have fresh tomatoes growing into January?
We also have a wonderful aloe plant, which got a little confused in the warmth of a couple days of December and sent up a flower. The first year we were here, the flowers came up in April, but Spring seems to be coming earlier and earlier . . .
We’re having a little tree work done, and AdventureMan is studying pruning techniques, so as to judiciously and minimally trim back some of our fruit trees, and clear some of the dead branches off our huge oak tree. I’ve got two avocado trees that I’ve grown from seeds, in large pots now, and some basil plants that still appear to be doing well. I still remember the hedges made of basil, which grew year round in Qatar at the Ramada Hotel, and in Kuwait would go dormant during the brutal heat of summer but come roaring back once the heat moderated.