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Expat wanderer

Breakfast at Andy’s Flour Power

We love this place, a local bakery where everything served is fresh cooked. No matter what I order, I always love that it smells of cinnamon when it arrives, because of the home baked walnut-raisin toast on the plate. Normally, I can pass on toast, it is just filler. When it is Andy’s Flour Power walnut-raising toast – I groan, and eat every bite.

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After Thanksgiving Dinner, we thought we would never eat again. But after fasting from afternoon until the next day, we find that, after all, we are hungry for breakfast. Here is what we had for breakfast – I had a spinach – swiss cheese omelette:

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AdventureMan’s biscuits and gravy were to die for (he says):

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Law and Order Man’s Ham and Cheese Omelette:

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EnviroGirl got the most beautiful dish of all – a vegetable frittata:

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It was thundery and a little rainy on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving:

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November 30, 2008 Posted by | Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Food, Living Conditions, Weather | | 13 Comments

Southern Thanksgiving Photos

First, apologies – No matter how many photos I take, you can’t begin to imagine the scope of this event. Three sisters, out of a family of ten brothers and sisters, gather the clan and provide a truly old fashioned Southern Thanksgiving on a large country estate. While the photos are mostly of food, the most important element of the gathering is the love that brings and binds this family together.

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The weather was magnificent, allowing people to be inside and out, the kids out playing chase, football, exploring the grounds, sitting on the old swing, etc. Out in the way-back, men started shucking oysters for the pre-meal appetizers around 9 in the morning.

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While the three sisters are pulling together all the last minute details, there is already an abundance of food to keep people nibbling while anticipating the main meal, served around 1:00 in the afternoon.

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As people arrive, they bring more food – mashed potatoes, sweet potato casseroles, green beans, turnip greens, collard greens, creamed corn, creamed onions, all in slow cookers to keep them warm until dinner-time.

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Meanwhile, things are heating up in the command center (kitchen) as time nears to get the food on the groaning tables:

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Frying up turkey breast meat:

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Usually, the men carve the turkeys – this year, a smoked turkey and a deep fried turkey:

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Getting close to dinner time, people start gathering closer to the house:

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Just before the dinner is served, the organizers thank the guests for coming and the food is blessed. Now here is where I really need to apologize – there are no dessert photos, and the desserts were magnificent. But once you have filled your place with turkey, dressing, vegetables, salads – and you have to take a little bit of everything so you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings – then you need to sit a while before you think about dessert. Actually, I didn’t even have any room for dessert! So I missed out on taking dessert photos, and for that, I totally apologize.

Then, about an hour after dessert, the family photos are taken. First, all the surviving and attending brothers and sisters, then each family, with various children and their families attending. This tradition is a lot of fun, but takes another hour or so. At the very end, we take photos of the three sisters who spend weeks and hours organizing the annual event, coordinating all the food, cooking for days and cleaning up afterwards. These women are my heroes – it is an unbelievable amount of work, and they do it out of love for their family:

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November 29, 2008 Posted by | Character, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Food, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Relationships, Thanksgiving, Turkey | 9 Comments

Never Ending Sunset 27 Nov 08

If you think I am crazy about sunrises (and I am) just wait until you see these sunsets. They are all minutes apart during the same sunset. I can’t watch a sunset and not have religious feelings – but see for yourself.

Just before sunset – can’t you almost hear the clink clink of those horseshoes hitting the metal pole?

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Awesome – or what?

November 29, 2008 Posted by | ExPat Life, Florida, Living Conditions, Photos | | 8 Comments

Not Your Kuwait Market

Photos from the local outdoor market:

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November 29, 2008 Posted by | Community, ExPat Life, Florida, Food, Living Conditions, Shopping | 4 Comments

Merchants Struggle for Survival

This is from today’s New York Times. You can read the rest of the article by clicking HERE.

By STEPHANIE ROSENBLOOM
Published: November 27, 2008

Black Friday, long the Super Bowl of shopping, is at hand, but it may have become nearly irrelevant. Check out the deals that were already on offer earlier this week:

Diamond earrings at Macy’s were chopped to $249 from $700. A Marc Jacobs bag at Saks, originally $995, fell to $248.45. And for men, a Ted Baker suit at Lord & Taylor was selling not for the usual $895, but for $399.99.

Such crazy prices are a sign of the times, and analysts expect many more such deals during one of the toughest holiday seasons in decades.

Laden with excess inventory, hungry for sales and worried because of five fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, the nation’s retailers went into a price-cutting frenzy long before the day after Thanksgiving, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. For weeks, they have been trying to outdo one another to capture the attention of consumers who have become numb to run-of-the-mill discounts. As the latest T. J. Maxx slogan goes: “Every day is Black Friday.”

In fact, retailers have had so many early “doorbusters” — jaw-dropping deals usually reserved for Black Friday — that “it’s almost not necessary to get up at 5 in the morning,” said Bill Dreher, a senior retailing analyst with Deutsche Bank Securities.

But the retailers are just getting warmed up.

The Toys “R” Us chain is planning the deepest discounts in its history on Friday, with 50 percent more doorbusters than last year. Other retailers are promising that their deals will be even more striking than the sales they have already unveiled — with Wal-Mart, for instance, promising large flat-panel televisions for less than $400.

Such bargains are likely to set the tone for the shopping season to come.

“There’s no reason to suspect this will end,” said Dan de Grandpre, editor in chief of Dealnews.com, which has been tracking Black Friday deals for about a decade. “This kind of heavy discounting will continue until we see some retailers start to fail, until they start to go out of business.”

Indeed, the intense competition could erode profits at many chains. Some retailing analysts even fear it could condition consumers to shop only when merchandise is deeply discounted.

Still, stores plan to pull out all the stops on Friday and through the weekend. After all, November and December sales make up 25 to 40 percent of many retailers’ annual sales, according to the National Retail Federation, an industry group. (The day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday because it was, historically, the day that many retailers moved into the black, or became profitable for the year.)

The deals were laid out in circulars tucked into newspapers on Thanksgiving Day, on retailers’ Web sites and on sites dedicated to sales and shopping strategies, like bfads.net and gottadeal.com. Many stores planned to open just after midnight Friday morning, and others — including Wal-Mart, Sears, Macy’s, Best Buy, Circuit City, Toys “R” Us and Old Navy — set their openings for 5 a.m. Target will open at 6 a.m. and BJ’s Wholesale Club at 7 a.m.

Read the entire article HERE.

November 28, 2008 Posted by | Financial Issues, Holiday, Living Conditions, Shopping | Leave a comment

Black Friday

Black Friday – the Friday after Thanksgiving – bargain hunters in the USA head to the stores. Some stores opened as early as midnight to attract bargain hunters. Many more open around 5 or 6 in the morning. Most have loss leaders – i.e. specially priced items, maybe even below cost – hoping people will come in looking for the bargains and buy something else.

Not me.

Not in a million years.

I did it one year; we had just come back to the US after living for years on Germany. I needed 110v Christmas lights, so I went to a store at 0530 and stood in line until it opened at 6 and got many packages . . . but not enough. Later in the day I went back to see if there were any of the bargain priced lights left, and there were stacks and stacks of them. I learned my lesson.

We also learned that many things go on sale a couple days before in some stores, or are still on sale and in good supply the following Monday.

I hate lines. I hate competitive shopping. I have seen women grab things out of one another’s hands, I have seen them race down the aisles . . . and I just ask myself “What is this all about?” I have that primitive instinct too, hunting down that elusive bargain, bagging it and getting it home – but at what cost?

Anomaly – while gas prices have dropped back to reasonable rates here, fewer Americans are traveling this year. Normally, Thanksgiving is the holiday with the highest accident rate of all the holidays because of the road traffic, but because Americans are holding tight to their purses this year, fewer are on the road or in the air.

We are packing up today and moving on to the next stop. We will stop and see good friends en route to our destination, have a meal and a good visit with them . . .

yes, yes, thank you, we had a truly wonderful and memorable Thanksgiving, a truly Southern Thanksgiving, with family, with friends, and I will share it with you as soon as I get a card-reader so I can upload to the computer. 🙂 There were three kinds of turkey – a deep fried turkey, a smoked turkey, and turkey breast pieces pan-fried in batter, like chicken nuggets only fresher, and tasty. My favorite was a big bucket of venison stew, one of the hunters had bagged a big buck up in Kentucky.

I don’t believe there was a steamed vegetable or un-sauced vegetable in sight! Lots of gelatins made with sour cream or cream cheese, macaroni and cheese, three or four different kinds of stuffings and sweet on sweet sweet potatoes . . . and then came dessert, oh my. The tables – separate stations for meats, stuffings, vegetables and salads – were groaning, but then again, there were many many people to feed. My Southern husband was in heaven, eating all the foods I don’t know how to make and never dreamed of making.

The very best part of Thankgiving was the visiting. It was like one great big diwaniyya, with people in the kitchen and living room, people way out back shucking oysters and peeling shrimp, loads of ice tea all made up, sweet, unsweet, Splenda, lemondade . . . young people playing football or running around. . . it was a very sweet family day, beautiful weather, you couldn’t order a nicer Thanksgiving, and we were so delighted to be included.

November 28, 2008 Posted by | Cold Drinks, Community, Cooking, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Food, Friends & Friendship, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Relationships, Thanksgiving, Travel | 2 Comments

Doha Museum of Islamic Art Photo for Ansam

Ansam, you asked if I had any photos of the Doha museum of Islamic Art from another angle. I found this one, but there was sand blowing that day. :-/

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November 27, 2008 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Building, Community, Doha, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Public Art | 5 Comments

“Seriously Bad Men”

AdventureMan and I are on a beach, and enjoyed one of the most magnificent sunsets we have ever seen, absolutely painterly, and I took lots of shots to share with you only to discover I don’t have my card reader/uploader little stick, so I have to wait until I can share them with you.

AdventureMan is having so much fun he has worn himself out, and today he came down with a bad cold. He spent some time napping while I spent some time out on the balcony, enjoying the sun and the crashing waves. When it came time for dinner, we decided some nice hot soup and hot tea would help him feel a lot better. Went down to the car, and our car is blocked by a huge white SUV, left running, doors locked, no driver.

For a minute we thought we were back in Kuwait.

There were three guys standing outside the office to the hotel, smoking and chatting (think Hank Hill) and we asked them if the car was their’s, and they said “No, it is the POLICE. There are some seriously bad men they are after, with guns!”

After about fifteen minutes, a couple beefy cops came by and one moved the car and parked it legally. We went and had a very delicious dinner at a Japanese restaurant where, when we told the owner we live in Kuwait, he said “Salaam A’aleikum” which astounded me, but he said he was Canadian-Japanese, and grew up with Arab immigrant kids. I love America.

On our way home, we stopped at a Publix, a very wonderful food market, where we picked up some green tea and coffee and bananas, just a little something to have in the room, and we also picked up some Thanksgiving bundles – how cool is this? Publix puts together grocery bags of Thanksgiving foods for the poor and needy, and has them on a stand by the check-out stands. You pick them up, pay for them, drop them in a bin and some needy family gets food for the holidays. They make it so easy to donate. We have so much for which we are thankful. I love this place.

When we got back to the motel, the cops were still surrounding the room (not in our building) where the seriously bad guys were holed up, and now, a couple hours later, there are two great big slow moving helicopters patrolling the beach area with huge spotlights, evidently trying to spot them on the move or something.

One of the bad buys is “SWAT trained” we were told.

The locks on our doors are not very serious locks. I am just hoping they catch them and go home so I can listen to the crashing of the waves in peace.

November 27, 2008 Posted by | Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Florida, Health Issues, Kuwait, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Social Issues, Thanksgiving | 11 Comments

December Great Kuwait Holiday Challenge

Yes, I know, we are not even totally finished with the Great Kuwait Sand and Surf Challenge, but the holidays are coming – this year for many of us at the same time, with the big Eid and Christmas both falling in December.

If you are celebrating, be sure to have your cameras with you. This next challenge is more inclusive – The Great Kuwait Holiday Challenge is coming up next!

November 25, 2008 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Photos, Relationships | | 10 Comments

Doha Museum of Islamic Arts Opens

My friends in Doha tell me that the long-awaited Museum of Islamic Arts, designed by I.M. Pei (who showed up for the opening, along with Robert de Niro) opened this weekend. I can hardly wait to see it for myself.

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By Lawrence Pollard
BBC News, Doha

A few years ago, prices in London auction houses went through the roof – not for the classic modern or contemporary art, but for works from the Islamic world.

Fabulous jewels, manuscripts and ceramics were fetching 10 times their estimate and more, and it soon emerged this was thanks to the al-Thani family, rulers of Qatar, the tiny gas-rich Gulf state.

They had tempted the veteran architect I M Pei – the man behind the glass pyramid at the Louvre – to design one last statement building, a spectacular museum on a purpose-built island in Doha, which would house only the best Islamic art.

Then they went shopping for their collection.
And this weekend the museum opens, a dramatic pile of white limestone shapes inspired by Islamic architecture and full of 800 of the finest examples of Islamic art.

Not long ago, the idea of culture being a reason to visit the Gulf would have made other Arabs laugh. No longer.

The Syrian cultural historian Rana Kabbani sees a political element to the museum, putting Doha on the cultural map.

“I think all the rulers in the Gulf see what they really lack is culture on a grand scale, as a kind of imperial identity. It’s a political-cultural lack. They have the means, and they’re going for it.”
The hope is that – like hosting a Grand Prix or buying a football club – a fabulous collection of art will bring prestige, attract tourists and create a brand.

That’s why along the coast, two museums are planned for Abu Dhabi – branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim.

New conversation
But what exactly is the Islamic art in the collection? What can ceramics from southern Spain have in common with metalwork from the Silk Route city of Samarkand?

One thing which links them is the misconceptions about Islamic art held by both east and west.
Designer and writer Navid Akhtar explains: “The conversation tends to go: ‘How come you don’t paint people? Because its forbidden.’

“There’s little understanding of the scriptures or commentaries, or the concept of art, so we’re left with a limited conversation.

“There’s a lot of figurative Islamic art. And the geometric patterns aren’t just pattern.”

The Koran has no comment on the visual arts.

The prophet was firmly against idols, but then so were Jews, orthodox Christians and puritan Anglicans at various times.

Many religions mistrust images but their cultures still end up using them – Islam however has had less use for them.

“The Koran is not a narrative like the old or new testament, it doesn’t tell a story, a narration you can illustrate,” says professor Doris Abouseif, author of Beauty in Arabic Culture.

“The Koran is precepts, it guides but doesn’t narrate.”

Any museum will show Persian and Indian miniatures, or Arab pottery with figures of animals or people.
They won’t be from a mosque, but the figure isn’t banned from wider Islamic culture.

‘Whole language’
One element Islamic objects have in common is intricate geometric patterns.

Some scholars think this is a craft habit, pure and simple, but to many younger Muslim artists the geometry holds something else.

“Pattern is a whole language of colour, form and shape,” says Reem al-Faisal, a Saudi artist-photographer.

“Each colour symbolises a state of the soul or being. It’s poetry translated into material elements.”
Mr Akhtar agrees: “Many of these things, as well as being objects of beauty, have functional usage, but then hidden beyond that is the sense of transcendence that they create.”

The chief curator of the new museum, Oliver Watson, is British, as are many of the staff.

The museum houses 800 artistic and historical works from three continents
The study of Islamic art is a western creation, which Ms al-Faisal says is not a problem so long as more Muslims now take up the study.

“I don’t care if it’s Muslims or Westerners – the problem is that there’s not enough research and that’s a mistake of the Muslims.

“They should have studied their own civilisation far more, they’ve been in hibernation for 500 years. There has to be a reawakening – they have to start studying their own history.”

Qatar’s museum will be just a glittering collection of greatest hits unless it manages to become, as promised, a centre of education and research into the history of this beautiful art.

November 24, 2008 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Biography, Community, Doha, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, News, Qatar, Travel | , | 8 Comments