Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Wakulla Springs Lodge: Attitude Matters

AdventureMan and I just had a grand adventure, a trip to Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, where we stayed at the Wakulla Springs Lodge for a couple nights.

I think we mentioned we lived in Florida before, a while back, at which time we came to dislike the commercial Florida intensely – think DisneyWorld and Orlando and schlock-filled shops with T-shirts “3 for $10!” It’s not that I dislike Disney, I grew up with Disney, and Bambi and Peter Pan and Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. They’re a lot of fun.

But have you been to DisneyWorld recently? Have you paid those prices? And if you want to park there, or stay there, or eat there – it is horrendous! Advertised as family friendly, but a death-knell on a family budget.

There is so much MORE to Florida, some wonderful places. Wakulla Springs is one of our favorites, and not far from another favorite, Appalachicola, home of world famous oysters, fresh out of the Gulf (Gulf of Mexico, :-), for my other Gulf friends) We used to stay at Wakulla Springs while we were living in Kuwait and Qatar, and traveling to the USA to catch some time with our son, at FSU in Tallahassee.


After our drive down, we show up at the counter . . . and the receptionist barely looks at us. She doesn’t get up. She doesn’t have a name tag on; she is wearing a FAMU sweatsuit. We give our names, and she doesn’t say anything to us, just dials a number and talks to someone and then, finally, looks at us and says “we don’t have anything ready. Check-in isn’t until 3:00 o’clock.”

Welcome to Wakulla Springs Lodge. I was speechless. I couldn’t imagine how someone could be so rude! So unwelcoming! We are guests, here to spend our money, and this is how our time in Wakulla begins?

It’s all about attitude. I could feel my temper rising. On the other hand, what good would it do to get angry? Am I going to make a difference in how this young woman welcomes her customer, or am I going to make her day worse than it already is? Sometimes it’s just poor training. Sometimes someone is just having a bad day. Sometimes it’s disgust with corporate management, and this may have been a little of all of the above.

We decided to go to lunch, and the doors closed just as we got there. Wakulla Springs is on a different time zone, and the restaurant is closed!

We were so happy to be going, and now we are having second thoughts. We decide we had better go find something to eat – have you noticed it is easier to be down or angry when you are hungry? Really, really hungry? 😉 We drove to the crossroads that had a few eating places, about half of them closed. There was one I thought “oh please, please, don’t let that be the only one open” and encouraged AdventureMan to drive on, just a little further.

What we discovered will be the next entry 🙂

This is the Wakulla Lodge fireplace:


Edward Ball brought in artisans from Italy to paint the beamed ceiling in the lobby; it is truly lovely:

Later, I sat in the lobby with a cup of coffee, waiting for my boat trip, and a wedding party came in to rehearse for the big day. The mother of the groom had to walk away, trying to staunch the tears, as the pianist practiced “Here Comes the Bride.” I had to cry a little along with her; I LOVE weddings 🙂

The lobby is spacious and light and beautiful. There is a gift shop and ice cream bar at one end of the lobby, and a restaurant at the other end:

These boat trips last about an hour and tell you a lot about the history and wildlife of Wakulla Springs. They are a lot of fun:


The first night, we had a truly indifferent meal in the Wakulla Lodge Restaurant, made bearable by the cheerful and professional waitress, Brittany, who had to tell us that they were totally out of their famous navy bean soup, and also out of the salad we wanted to order.

“We’ve been inundated!” she cried. “The lunch crowd wiped us out!” She was so cheerfully honest we couldn’t help but be cheerful right back. That’s the magic in good customer service.

While the meal was mediocre, Brittany sparkled as she served, and turned what might have been a real downer into just a less-than-memorable meal, we’ve had a few of those now and then, no big deal. With a lesser waitress, it might have been horrible.

All in all, customer service was notable in its imbalance at Wakulla Springs Lodge. Brittany, in the Dining Room, was a star. JJ, a part-timer at the desk, was another star. Our bathroom floor in our room was not clean, but the staff was gracious and eager to please. The ice-cream bar attendant was overworked and grouchy. (Honestly! How can you serve ice cream and be a grouch???)

There is so much potential at Wakulla Springs Lodge. They have this fabulous location, a huge spring where water pumps out thousands of gallons per day, where manatees and wildlife congregate, where movies have been filmed, where serious birders come to “twitch” (check off birds seen), with these fun boat trips, natural attractions, lovely sized rooms, and it just needs some polish to be a seriously first-class destination.

December 28, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Civility, Communication, Cultural, Customer Service, Education, Entertainment, Environment, ExPat Life, Florida, Food, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | 6 Comments

Music Brings Alzheimer’s Patients Into the Moment

I saw this video over the Christmas holiday, and I can’t forget it. I know one of the reasons I love water aerobics is that they play all this rock music of my generation, and it gets us working hard, some even sing along, belting out the lyrics, LLOOLLL, I’m sure we look ridiculous, but oh, we have a great time and it makes exercise time pass more quickly.

This video shows the dramatic effect familiar music has on Alzheimer’s patients, bringing them out of their fog, however briefly, and animating them once again:

December 26, 2012 Posted by | Aging, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Experiment, Family Issues, Generational, Music | , | 8 Comments

Food Trends for 2013

Found this on AOL News/Kitchen



The Sterling-Rice Group recently announced its predictions for 2013’s top ten food trends. The list was compiled by the group’s culinary council, which is made up of chefs, restaurateurs and foodies, and it included the following:

Sour Foods -Tart and bitter flavors, such as fermented cherry juice and vinegars will take the stage.

Healthy Dining Out – Chefs will work behind the scenes to make your meals healthier by using ingredients like brown rice and vegetable stock.

Asian Comfort Foods – Thai, Vietnamese and Korean flavors will work their way into traditional American menu items.

Vegetables as Main Dishes – Veggies will take over entrées–options such as cauliflower steaks and squash noodles are becoming more common.

Kid-Friendly Versions of Adult Foods – Kids’ menus will focus less on hot dogs and grilled cheese and more on fruits, grains and authentic Asian flavors.

Local Artisans – American artisan shops will become destinations for foodies that used to travel to Europe for exotic flavors.

Individualized Servings – Menus will offer singular servings for perfectly-sized meals.

Savory Fruit – Chefs will be less interested in sugary tastes than in adding savory touches to their recipes.

All-Inclusive Menus – No diner will be left behind as restaurants offer options to accommodate all eaters.

Popcorn – Popcorn will be the snack of 2013–it will pop up in all types of food!

December 25, 2012 Posted by | Food, Living Conditions, Marketing, Shopping, Statistics | | Leave a comment

Declare His Praise in the Coastlands!

The old testament reading for this morning continues in Isaiah, and I think he is talking to me! He mentions the coastlands several times, ending with “Let them give glory to the Lord,
and declare his praise in the coastlands.”

Isaiah 42:1-12

42Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2 He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
3 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

5 Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people upon it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
6 I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,*
a light to the nations,
7 to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
8 I am the Lord, that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to idols.
9 See, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth,
I tell you of them.

10 Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise from the end of the earth!
Let the sea roar* and all that fills it,
the coastlands and their inhabitants.
11 Let the desert and its towns lift up their voice,
the villages that Kedar inhabits;
let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy,
let them shout from the tops of the mountains.
12 Let them give glory to the Lord,
and declare his praise in the coastlands.

December 23, 2012 Posted by | Advent, Cultural, Faith, Lectionary Readings, Spiritual | 2 Comments

Cranberry Sauce Grand Marnier

This is so unbelievably easy. When I make this, I just buy one of the mini-bottles, and it is just the right amount:

Cranberry Sauce Grand Marnier

1 12oz package fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

1 mini bottle Grand Marnier

Bring cranberries to a boil in the water, boil one minute, add sugar, stir until dissolved. Take off heat. Add entire mini-bottle of Grand Marnier, stir, let cool, put in container and refrigerate. (It will gel considerably because of the sugar.)

Tastes good served with turkey, but if you like cranberries, as I do, it is also great with an English muffin at breakfast.

December 22, 2012 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, Food, Recipes | Leave a comment

Cranberry Chicken on a Cold Day in Pensacola

It is cold this morning in Pensacola, and yesterday, too. I am thanking God; I feel so much happier and energetic when it is a little bit cold. It’s a good time of the year to feel energetic; I have a LOT to do!

This is a great recipe for busy days. You pop four ingredients into the slow-cooker, plug it in, set it on low and you are done. The smells will alert you that something delicious is on the way. When you are ready to eat, quickly cook up some rice or noodles – either work just fine – and serve the fork-tender chicken with some of the sauce – totally delicious!

Cranberry Chicken – Slow cooker

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 (16 ounce) bottle Catalina salad dressing
1 (14.5 ounce) can whole berry cranberry sauce
1 envelope onion soup mix

1. Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of a slow cooker. Pour the salad dressing, cranberry sauce, and onion soup mix over the chicken.

2. Cook on Low 4 to 6 hours.

The first time I made this, I didn’t have Catalina Dressing on hand, but not to fear – it is also easy to make:

Kraft Catalina Salad Dressing
1 cup sugar
2 Teaspoon salt
dash paprika
1/2 Teaspoon chili powder
1/2 Teaspoon celery seed
1/2 Teaspoon dry mustard
grated onion to taste
1/2 cup vinegar
2/3 cup ketchup
1 cup vegetable oil
Place all ingredients into blender and mix. Store in jar in refrigerator.

December 22, 2012 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Food, Recipes | Leave a comment

Pensacola Zoo Lights

Yesterday was a strange day in Pensacola. When we got up, it was already a humid seventy three degrees, and the sky had threatening clouds of an odd color. We hit the pool, and when we came out, it felt cooler. The skies broke forth several times with pounding rains, and then . . . the clouds disappeared, and by five, we had clear skies, no clouds, falling temperatures and a chilly breeze.

It was a great night to go see the Pensacola Zoo Lights. This is probably something AdventureMan and I wouldn’t do if it were just the two of us, but our son had asked if we could pick up our grandson and take care of him for a couple hours and the Zoo Lights seemed like just the thing. I call them Pensacola Zoo Lights, but the Zoo is actually in Gulf Breeze, it is the Gulf Breeze Zoo Lights. As we picked up Q, we were glad we all had jackets and long pants – it was COLD!

Zoo lights is a lot of fun. The place was packed with families and children, but not so packed you couldn’t visit some of the paths without interruption. The main population of children and families was around the train station, where there was also, conveniently, a little play ground for people waiting for the train.

Lots and lots of lights:






Q’s favorite light, LOL!




A tribute to the local Blue Angels Team 🙂





Near the angel was a place where something like soap was coming out of a tube, it looked a little like snow. Every now and then a great gust of wind would blow and the soap would flurry everywhere, and then it truly did look a little like snow and the children would scream with joy and chase after the snow-soap flakes.



This is worth a trip at this time of the year, with children. Here are the directions from the Gulf Breeze Zoo website:

Enter the following address into your GPS navigation system:

Gulf Breeze Zoo
5701 Gulf Breeze Parkway
Gulf Breeze, FL 32563

From TALLAHASEE and points EAST:
I-10 West to Exit 31. Take Rt. 87 South to Hwy. 98 West, towards Gulf Breeze.
Go 5 miles. Zoo is on the left.

From PANAMA CITY and points EAST:
Hwy. 98 West to Gulf Breeze. Zoo is on the left.

From MOBILE, AL and points WEST:
I-10 East to I-110 South through Pensacola, FL. Take Hwy. 98 East to Gulf Breeze. Zoo is on the right.

From MONTGOMERY, AL and points NORTH:
I-65 South to Exit 93. Take US 84 East to Rt. 41 South. Turn onto Rt. 87 South to Hwy. 98 West, towards Gulf Breeze. Go 5 miles. Zoo is on the left.

December 21, 2012 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Christmas, Community, Entertainment, Family Issues, Holiday, Living Conditions | 1 Comment

Study Suggests Women Wait to Have Children

Found this today in AOL News/Huffington Post:

Those bright eyes and chubby cheeks may be hard to resist, but researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle have good reason to believe you should.

In a study published online in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, researchers found that the interval between starting menstruation and first giving birth is inversely associated with the risk of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), a subtype of the disease that does not depend on hormones such as estrogen to grow and spread, and therefore does not respond to hormone-blocking drugs such as Tamoxifen. To put it plainly, women who wait at least 15 years after their first menstrual period to give birth to their first child may reduce their risk of the aggressive form of breast cancer by up to 60 percent, the report states.

It’s a finding that researchers say African-American women want to consider especially, since they experience disproportionately high rates of triple-negative disease.

In fact, study author Christopher I. Li, M.D. says that his findings may actually explain why black women tend to develop triple-negative breast cancer more often than other groups. African-American women are more likely to start having children at a younger age and are less likely to breast-feed, Li said, pointing to several previous studies that have suggested that breast-feeding provides a protective effect against triple-negative disease.

Previous studies have also countered Li’s latest claim, however, showing that waiting to have children may actually increase your breast cancer risk. But, like Li, researchers note that the type of breast cancer key.

The risk of the most common subtype of breast cancer, ER positive, for example, has proven to be lower among women who’ve had a full-term pregnancy and have breast-fed. The reason, researchers believe, is that the hormones associated with pregnancy induce certain changes in the cellular structure of the breast that make the tissue less susceptible to this type of cancer.

And while prevention trumps having to fight off triple negative disease, researchers honed in on two successful ways to do it this year. In October, scientists pinpointed a new compound created from a rich source in vegetables, including broccoli and brussel sprouts, to combat TNBC, while researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York discovered that a certain form of smallpox vaccine was able to kill 90 percent of cancer cells in four days of treatment.

December 19, 2012 Posted by | Cultural, Education, Family Issues, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Women's Issues | 1 Comment

John the Baptist Illuminated


Today’s Gospel reading in The Lectionary is the very first chapter of Mark, featuring John the Baptist. As I read it, I had a memory flash of sitting in the Anglican Church in Kuwait, hearing a reading on John the Baptist’s Feast Day, a new reading I had never heard before, and it was beautiful, read in the rich, plummy tones of British English by their Ambassador. At the end, he said it was from the Quran.

John the Baptist in the Quran?

I was so ignorant about so many things. I still have so much to learn.

Here is today’s reading from Mark:

Mark 1:1-8

1The beginning of the good news* of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.*

2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,*
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,*
who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight” ’,
4John the baptizer appeared* in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with* water; but he will baptize you with* the Holy Spirit.’

This is from an Islamic website, Soundvision, one which uses many sources to illuminate the teachings of the Quran and the Bible:

The birth of Prophet John is miraculous because he is the offspring of a barren mother and an elderly father. His father, it should be noted, was also a Prophet named Zecheriah.

“‘Zecheriah, We bring you the good news of the birth of a son whose name shall be John, one whose namesake We never created before.’ He said: ‘My Lord! How can I have a boy when my wife is barren and I have reached an extremely old age?’ He answered: ‘So shall it be.’ Your Lord says: ‘It is easy for Me’, and then added: ‘For beyond doubt, I created you earlier when you were nothing’ (Quran 19:7-9).

“Zecheriah exclaimed: ‘My Lord! How shall I have a son when old age has overtaken me and my wife is barren?’ He said: ‘Thus shall it be; Allah does what He wills'”(Quran 3:40).

With the birth of John, Allah granted Zecheriah his desire for an heir.

“And We bestowed favor upon Zecheriah, when he cried to his Lord: ‘Lord! Leave me not solitary [without any issue]. You are the best Inheritor.’ So We accepted his prayer and bestowed upon him John, and We made his wife fit (to bear a child). Verily they hastened in doing good works and called upon Us with longing and fear, and humbled themselves to Us” (Quran 21:89-90).

The beautiful qualities of John

Allah did not just miraculously grant Zecheriah a son. He made this child a blessing for his parents and beautiful in character. Prophet John is described in the Quran as chaste and righteous.

“Then Zecheriah prayed to his Lord: ‘O Lord! Grant me from Yourself out of Your grace the gift of a goodly offspring, for indeed You alone heed all Prayers. As he stood praying in the sanctuary, the angels called out to him: ‘Allah gives you good tidings of John, who shall confirm a command of Allah, shall be outstanding among men, utterly chaste, and a Prophet from among the righteous” (Quran 3:38-39).

“‘O John! Hold fast the Book with all your strength. We had bestowed wisdom upon him while he was still a child; and We also endowed him with tenderness and purity; and he was exceedingly pious and cherishing to his parents. Never was he insolent or rebellious. Peace be upon him, the day he was born, and the day he will die, and the day he will be raised up alive. (Quran 19: 12-15).

Part of a line of honored Prophets

Finally, as mentioned above, Prophet John is one of the Prophets Muslims must believe in. He is one of the 25 mentioned in the Quran.

“And We bestowed upon Abraham (offspring) Isaac and Jacob and each of them did We guide to the right way as We had earlier guided Noah to the right way; and (of his descendants We guided) David and Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses and Aaron. Thus do We reward those who do good. (And of his descendants We guided) Zecheriah, John, Jesus and Elias: each one of them was of the righteous.” (Quran 6:84-85).

December 19, 2012 Posted by | Advent, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Education, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Kuwait, Lectionary Readings, Spiritual, Values | 4 Comments

Polish Your Silver in Seconds! It’s Like Magic

Just in time for Christmas – I have to try this tomorrow! Thank you, Stephane, at My French Heaven:

December 18, 2012 Posted by | Beauty, Blogging, Civility, Cooking, Cultural, Entertainment, France, Home Improvements, Recipes | | Leave a comment