Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Shed, Ocean Springs, Mississippi

 

It’s nearly three in the afternoon when we reach exit 57 into Gautier, Mississippi, but the odor of fresh-cooked beignets is driving us crazy, and making us hungry, so we stop at The Shed. The website says The Shed is in Ocean Springs, but I always think of it as Gautier because it is just off I-10, that major drug running and human trafficking route running across our southernmost United States.

We’ve stopped before at The Shed, with the grandchildren, but it was always so crowded and backed up that we found someplace else. This time, we are in luck.

As we order, we see on the menu that Seniors can order kids meals. We are not big hungry, and we know we have a dinner party in just a few hours, so we order kids portions. Good thing.

The ceiling inside The Shed:

The interior, and where I believe live music often plays:

My “child’s portion” of ribs:

AdventureMan’s “child portion” pulled pork sandwich:

So delighted we could get these “smaller portions.” I hate to imagine what an adult portion would look like!

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Pensacola, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Oceana Grill, New Orleans

In our casual conversations with people who work in New Orleans, we always ask them where they eat. Sometimes we specify in the French Quarter but because we always have a car with us, we aren’t limited. One of the places most frequently recommended is the Oceana Grill.

“It’s not fancy,” one waitress told us when we asked her she she liked to eat, “but the food is reliably good and everyone I know goes there.”

That’s what we want to hear.

Our concierge recommended Deannie’s, a seafood grill just a block away, and since it is raining, we give it a try. There are like fifty people waiting, and a 45 minute wait. We walk another block to the Oceana – still a wait, but only 10 minutes, and we like the atmosphere.

We are quickly shown to a table near the grill. This was an exciting place to sit. We figured out that there is another kitchen somewhere, as food would appear from another direction, but here was where the action was happening, billows of steam flying up into a huge exhaust fan as the fillets hit the grill.

 

 

I decided to go for the New Orleans special, focusing on shrimp etoufee, beans and rice, jambalaya with andouille sausage. It was good. We have a lot of the same in Pensacola.

AdventureMan choose a Po’Boy Oyster sandwich. He said it was fine.

We couldn’t resist a creme brûlée. It was the highlight of our meal 🙂

Just as we left, it rained heavily, it poured rain, and the streets flooded, and even just two blocks back to the hotel took forever – and we didn’t mind a bit. Our clothes were soaked, our shoes were soaked, and we had a wonderful time.

We slept the sleep of The Saints. We woke up late the next morning . . . well, late for us, maybe 7:30 instead of o-dark-hundred when the cats think it’s time for me to get up and feed them. What luxury! Check out was quick and easy, and off we went to grab breakfast and be early to the World War II Museum.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, New Orleans, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , | Leave a comment

Monument Valley: A Day to Remember

When we decided to go to Monument Valley, we decided to go all out, and we are so glad we did. We had read you can go down and visit many of the places in Monument Valley on your own, which we often like to do, go places on our own. On the other hand, doing Monument Valley on your own, you could very well miss something important.

So we signed up with Majestic Monument Tours, for a morning in Mystery Valley and an afternoon in the regular valley below the hotel. Bright and early we met our guide, Hope, in the hotel lobby and our day began.

Immediately we were so glad to be with Hope. For one thing, she is knowledgeable, not showy but quiet and modest and full of good information, if you want to know. Second, she is a really great driver, and some of the places she took us needed four wheel drive. Third, many of the places she took us were also off-limits to people who did not have guides. Last and not least, the roads were as bad as any we have ever driven in Africa or the Middle East, and our little rental car might have suffered damage had we tried these excursions on our own. Going with a guide was the right decision, for so many reasons.

This was another best day of our entire road trip.

While it was still cool, we hiked up to some dwellings, straight up the red rock. I didn’t have any problem going up, I wasn’t worried about going up, it’s always going down on rock where I worry – loose pebbles can make your foot slip, and there are no soft surfaces on the way down. I did fine, and I thought AdventureMan did, too, only to learn when we got back to the hotel at the end of the day that he had actually slid and tumbled badly down one rock slope when he had gone up to photograph some hand prints in a location that I would not attempt.

This is the rock hill I climbed, early in the morning, while it was still cool. By later in the day, it was too hot for me, I would hike, but hide in the shady areas.

This is Hope, our guide, with me at the top of the hill, and the truck down at the bottom of the hill.

I risked it all for petroglyphs.

I was cooing and babying him, so sorry I had no idea that he had hurt himself, but he said “I didn’t want anyone to know, and the most important thing is I didn’t damage my camera.” LOL, so stoic, and here we are bumping around all day in hard seats mounted on a truck, like we are riding really difficult hard horses most of the day, and he doesn’t make a peep!

 

This is the cliff AdventureMan fell down. He had gone up to take photographs of family hand prints and petroglyphs on the wall. He was the only one who climbed up with Hope.

 

The day was full of wonders, including backdrops from old cowboy movies. When we cam back, AdventureMan reviewed a lot of the movies mentioned and would call me in and say “Look! Clint Eastwood is climbing that rock formation!” or “John Wayne is there with those cliffs in the background!” That was a lot of fun.

 

 

I love pictographs and petroglyphs. Can you see these?

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s what I find interesting about the following two:  each one has a right hand that is enlarged. I wonder if it is co-incidence, or if the enlargement of the right hand has significance? Look at the line coming out of the head of the top figure. That doesn’t look accidental, it looks intentional. What could it mean? These were intelligent human beings, problem solvers, artists. We have to give them credit for having as much capability of expression and intent as we have – or do we?

 

 

At one of the hollowed out areas, Hope pulled out her flute and played a haunting melody, echoed off the wall. It was a wonderful moment.

I liked this formation below a lot; it is called Three Sisters, and I am one of three sisters.

I think this was called God’s Eyes

And this was called God’s ear.

One of the classic cowboy movie backdrops.

Late in the afternoon, we got back to the hotel, grabbed quick naps (hey! it’s vacation!) and then headed to Amigos for a truly great dinner.

I woke up early to take this photo for you. This is sunrise in Monument Valley. You want this on your bucket list. Look, you can even see a star and the dim lights of the first trucks heading down into the valley to capture the early morning light.  🙂

 

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, Cultural, Local Lore, Road Trips, sunrise series, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

The Best Road Trip Ever

“So when are you going to write up our trip,” AdventureMan asks, lolling on my office day-bed on a lazy Friday morning. He’s heading out to do a thankless, endless job – weeding. Meanwhile, we are catching up and making plans.

“I read your trip reviews and I think ‘what a fun woman! I’d love to travel with her!’ and then I realize I was on the trip, too! I was with you!”

We’ve been back a couple weeks now, but this is Ending Time, you know, the end of the school year, a semi-closing down of the church year, lots of events and goings-on. On the day of my last class, a class in religious history, I came home and did what I have done ever since I hit university. Before I took exams, I cleaned my space. I need order and structure and clean to focus on my exams. Old habits die hard; now I can do a little quilting, but first . . . clean my office space! Out with the old! Space for the books! Organize those scraps! It all takes time, but I am seeing the end of the tunnel, and I need to write up this trip.

It was the best trip ever. Oh, did I already say that?

Shorter Days, Longer Stays

After all these years of trip planning, we’ve had to come to some compromises. AdventureMan wasn’t raised getting up at “the crap of dawn” as he calls it, hitting the road, stopping for a quick breakfast, hitting the road, bat-out-of-hell on the road until we reach the destination. No, that is not for him. Nor (sigh) is it for me. Ageing has caused me some real re-evaluation on travel style. We decided on “Shorter days, longer stays.”

The first day of our trip was sheer joy. Our flight didn’t leave until nine in the morning, not like six in the morning when we are headed for Seattle. We boarded a local hop to Atlanta, transferred to a bigger flight to Denver, where Little Diamond lives with her two little diamond sparklers, her twins, whom I have hungered to cuddle. Our flight attendant asked all the DaVita travelers to raise their hands – it was almost everyone on the flight, headed to a big conference, party atmosphere.

On landing, I got a message that our car was waiting; we went straight there, got a Denver map, headed for our hotel, a very odd Fairfield Inn in a great location, just off a major highway, where we checked in and called Little Diamond, who was there in about fifteen minutes. Oh, what joy! We’ve missed Little Diamond! All those years she would come stay with us, in Doha, in Kuwait, in Germany. There were times she would come and we would leave her in charge, and now, here she is, a professor, an expert, a grown woman with delightful little children of her own.

We did what we always do – we hit the Target. It’s what we always did when she came into town, too, we are a peculiar family with particular tastes. AdventureMan and I needed to stock up on water and car snacks for our upcoming road trip, and some sunscreen, which came in handy later on. Well, when she would come into town, we hit the Sultan Center, or the Lulu, depending on where we were living, but same idea – to be comfortable traveling, it helps to have some of your favorite things around.

We had so much catching up to do, and then – where to go for dinner? It’s always good to know a local, Little Diamond had some great suggestions, and we had one of the best meals on our trip at True Food, in the Cherry Park area.

True Food was really interesting, fabulous menu with unique and tasty offerings, very good wines, and uniformly beautiful wait staff. I know, it’s an odd thing to say, but it’s as if there were a template that included looking clean and well-groomed kind of beautiful, natural beauty. The food was the same, natural ingredients, put together with imagination and flair. And maybe seasoned by our joyfulness at all being together, we “killed the fatted fig.”

 

Actually, while all our appetizers were a variety of vegetables, I had salmon, and it was marvelous, served on quinoa on a bed of . . . parsnips? It was perfect.

We had time after dinner with the kids; in the interest of protecting their privacy I will forego posting their photos, in addition to the fact that, at three, they are moving so fast it is hard to capture them clearly in the evening light.  🙂 We left Little Diamond and the little little diamonds with big smiles on our faces, knowing we would see them again at the end of our trip.

The night at the Fairfield Inn was quiet and peaceful, even though we were near a busy highway. The cooler temperatures helped us sleep, in spite of the noisy plastic covers they are using to cover their mattress. The mattresses are really good, but the plastic covers makes them “sleep hot” and they also crackle. It’s a small thing, but it affects our sleep. We are up at an early hour and hit the road after a quick breakfast.

May 26, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Blogging, Doha, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Hotels, Kuwait, Photos, Privacy, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | 2 Comments

What to Tell Your Senator About Health Care

God bless the League of Women Voters! They register new voters, and they keep a sharp eye on issues, and how they will effect us, the people. They do their homework, and they share what they learn with others. Today I received a notification about telling our US Senators how we feel about health care, and that we want protection for the poor, those with pre-existing conditions, and for women.

Remember – the promise was that any replacement was going to be even better, and cheaper, and that all would have access. The bill passed by the house penalizes women, the poor, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.

The League shares words we can use:

 

LWV FLORIDA SUGGESTED LETTER TEMPLATES

Dear Senator ____, I join many Americans to oppose the Senate from adopting a health care bill that was not good enough for the Congress that passed it and not good enough for Congressional staffers who work for Congress as the newly passed bill, American Health Care Act (AHCA) exempts these two groups of people from its coverage. They get to keep Obamacare for themselves while they force an inadequate product on the rest of us.

Perhaps Congress gave itself preferential treatment because it wanted the better, broader, and less expensive health care overage that Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provided.

Perhaps Congress and their staffers did not want to be threatened by the new bill’s potential for skyrocketing costs for pre-existing conditions, and for the elderly who are often on fixed incomes.

Perhaps Congress wanted to shield themselves from the new bill’s threat that their state may seek a waiver and choose not to keep costs for pre-existing conditions within the reach of most Americans.

Or, perhaps Congress and their staffers did not want to be part of the 14 million Americans who would lose insurance in 2018 due to President Trump’s new health care bill.

I know my__________ who has diabetes, high blood pressure, or cancer and these family members and friends will suffer dire consequences and may not survive if their health insurance or Medicaid is taken away.

Bottom line, if the newly passed AHCA is not good enough for Congress, then it is not good enough for me and other Americans. Vote no on the new health care bill.
I usually paraphrase a little, but these are really good guidelines. So now, get busy.
Remember Resistbot, too – text Resist to 50409.

May 19, 2017 Posted by | Aging, Bureaucracy, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Florida, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Women's Issues | | Leave a comment

“You Shall Also Love the Stranger”

In this morning’s lectionary readings from Deuteronomy, I find words of hope this morning:

 

Deuteronomy 10: 17 – 18

17For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, 18who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing. 19You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

 

I often tell my friends that I encountered very good Christians as I lived among the Moslems; they believe in Christ, and as we differ among ourselves as Christians, they also differ from us. Some of the differences are significant, and at the same time, I am aware that Christians did not agree – and still do not agree – on Christ’s divinity. So I look at the fruits of the spirit, I look at actions, and I look at being faithful to God’s intentions for us as his creation. I welcome the stranger as the stranger so often welcomed us.

Right now, it shames me that our very Christian country is no longer hospitable to the stranger. We were the shining light of hope in the world. Now we are led by a me-first bully, who will rob the poor even of their access to affordable health care to fill his pickets and those of his cronies. He forgets we are all strangers in a strange land, and will have to answer for our misdeeds.

I take courage in the spiritual renewal of resistance; there are those who continue to welcome, clothe and feed the stranger, who are fighting against injustice in the criminal and legal system, who are fighting for a woman’s equal place in this country, who are protecting the widows and orphans, the very things we are called to do. For the first time in my life, I am a member of the ACLU. I continue to receive training as a spirit warrior.  We use our increased investments to fund Planned Parenthood. We strive to feed the hungry and clothe those without clothing.

We laugh, as we discuss issues in our classes, at our activities, over lunch, that at this later stage in life, we could be so reactivated 🙂

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Character, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Leadership, Lectionary Readings, Lent, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Values, Women's Issues | 3 Comments

The Patter of Little Feet

AdventureMan said “I’m ready.”

 

He caught me by surprise.

 

We lost Zakat in July; one Saturday night at bedtime, he noticed Zakat had a dime-sized hole in his side. In the time it took us to get dressed and head for the animal emergency care hospital, it had grown to the size of a quarter. As we waited – the hospital was full, that night, of heartbreaking cases – it continued to grow. We had to leave him there to be sewn up, but they called us and told us that his skin wouldn’t hold stitches, and other lesions had opened. “A cat can’t live without skin” she said. We had to let him go.

 

When we adopted him, we hoped we would have more time with him. Zakat was the sweetest cat we have ever had, just full of love and trust. He was also FiV positive, feline AIDS, and he was susceptible to everything. He lost teeth. He had frequent pink eye. He would have fevers. He had skin problems. Through it all, he was sweet. When we lost him, we were desolate. AdventureMan said “No more cats.”

 

I think Trump changed his mind. I think he had to do something to fight our increasing dismay and outrage, we had to have some source of laughter in our lives. We know these immigrants he wants to keep out; we have lived among them and know them, for the most part, to be peaceful, hospitable people, very much like the people we live among in Pensacola. We have trans friends, and gay friends, and to limit their freedom threatens our own, for where do you start restraining those who hate? We prefer to drink untainted water, and to breathe unpolluted air, and we trust the EPA to measure, and to confront, and to enforce. And we want to trust in the “truthiness” of our elected officials, which we demonstrably cannot.

 

We have become activists. Who would have though it?

 

And, to nourish our souls, we have adopted Ragnar, a Russian Blue mix, and Uhtred, a creamy gold total mutt, both street cats, both sweet and funny and playful and delightful. Our house is once again a jumble of scattered and wrinkled carpets, dining room chairs knocked out of place, training not to go on countertops, and clear duct tape on the furniture to train them not to scratch there, but on the scratching posts.  They give us joy, and a delightful reason to get up in the morning.

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So, thank you, Donald Trump, for being so obnoxious and so depressing that we welcomed the diversion of these two delightful little angels into our household. One small step to help a hurting world.

February 27, 2017 Posted by | Aging, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Free Speech, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Values | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Wrapping up the Year in New Orleans

I bet you think we are going to write about a grand adventure partying in New Orleans, crowded with people eager to watch the Sugar Bowl, parades, grand times. I could – but our visit was a little different.

AdventureMan and I DID have a grand adventure – taking the 6 year old and 3 year old grandchildren to New Orleans for three days. We were a little aghast at the enormity of our undertaking, but AdventureMan did a little investigating, and found a wonderful solution – The Audubon Nature Institute has an annual family membership which gets you into the New Orleans zoo, the Aquarium, the Butterfly Garden and the Insectarium, and invited to special events, for a year.

Even better, the cost of the year-long family membership is so reasonable that our first trip to the zoo paid off the entire membership. The next day, the children voted that we visit the zoo again, and the third day we visited the aquarium. We can go back all year, walk in through the membership gate (that is a great feature, beats standing in line for tickets) and get a membership discount in the gift shop. This is a real deal. You can find it at Audubon Nature Institute, you can join online and print out your temporary membership card. What a great value for the money.

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New Orleans – and Pensacola – had an unseasonably warm Christmas, and when we arrived in New Orleans, it was 75° F. and the zoo was packed. Fortunately, one family was leaving and we found a good parking spot. Parenthetically, the three year old was a total trooper, doing her 10,000 steps with no complaints. We had lunch with the flamingos at one of the zoo food stops.
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We think the zoo has one of the most beautiful carousels we have ever seen. Tickets cost $1 and are worth every penny. This is a treat for children and their parents 🙂
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Two days, two trips to the zoo. It was fun, and plenty to occupy the kids for more than a couple days.
There are all kinds of enrichment centers and activities.
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We stayed at the Westin, which we discovered atop a high end shopping mall and offices when we had to rush to New Orleans to replace a missing passport at the last minute before one of our trips overseas. It is not where we stay when it is just the two of us, but it is a perfect place to stay with children who are going to the aquarium (next door) and the insectarium. It is also a very short drive to the zoo. Parking is $30 per day, and relatively secure. We looked over the city and the river, and had a very spacious room for two adults and two children.
We were also able to find some great places which welcomed children and provided fairly healthy food.
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A short walk from the hotel was Felipe’s, a taqueria, which we liked so well that we ate there two nights. Everything was freshly made, the kids loved the food (they had quesadillas and black beans), I had a taco salad made with pork al pastor, AdventureMan had tamales, tostada and a tortilla soup. We all split two flans. It was casual, the food was tasty and fresh and we were comfortable being their with kids.
Across the street from  Zito’s, where we take our Middle Eastern treasures to be shined up and sealed, is the Wakin’ Bakin’, where we had plates full of eggs and toast and fabulous biscuits, bowls of fresh fruit and good coffee.  They make their own croissants, and other wonderful goodies, and it’s all good.
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We introduced the grands to Ethiopian food at the Cafe Abyssinia, 3511 Magazine Street, close to the zoo and on the way back to the French Quarter. They loved the Ethiopian tea, and the injera, which they thought were pancakes. Not so fond yet of the Doro Wat or the veg entrees, but we have time . . . .  🙂
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Last but not least, as the weather turned chilly overnight, we snuggled into the Jackson Brewery, on Decatur, close to the Westin and close to the Aquarium and the river park walk. We started with beignets, which were a big hit, and orange juice. The brewery actually had good fresh options and the children loved the space and ambience.
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Entrance to Jackson Brewery from Decatur Street:
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We had such a good time, we think it might have to become a Christmas vacation tradition. In the meanwhile, we also enjoyed turning them back over to their parents and enjoying hours of silence. 🙂 Happy New Year!

December 31, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Birds, Cultural, Eating Out, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Experiment, Family Issues, Holiday, Hotels, Living Conditions, Relationships, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , | 2 Comments

“If Not Now, When?”

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(This is not the actual slide; the YMCA slide is indoors, and has two loops)

Our brand new YMCA has opened in Pensacola, and it has TWO pools – and a water slide.

Yesterday, there was one swimmer and one wallower as I entered the swim area for water aerobics with two of my friends. This was the perfect time. I asked the life guard if he could open the water slide long enough for us to go down.

My friends looked at me like I had grown a second head.

“If not now, when?” I asked them. “We’re not getting any younger. Who knows, tomorrow we might not be able!”

They were game. They followed me up the stairs, then others began to follow. It occurred to me that there was no going back, and that I had put myself in this position, where I couldn’t back out.

The lifeguard turned on the gush of water that lubricates and speeds your ride through the tube. I didn’t wait to let fear claim me, I jumped into the entry and went.

It was dark. It was fast. It was terrifying. You come out twisted and disoriented, not sure which way is up. It’s a lot like being born – there is NO light in the tube, and when light appears, there is a big gush of water as you are thrown out into the pool. I cam up sputtering.

Everyone did. We all looked proudly at one another and agreed that we are glad we did it – once. And never again.

December 13, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Exercise, Experiment, Fitness / FitBit, Humor, Living Conditions, Pensacola | , | 2 Comments

The Cookie Diva

“Grandmama, I need to tell you something,” my little 3 year old granddaughter looks up at me earnestly.

“What is it?” I ask, kneeling down to be at her level.

“I am SO SO SO HUNGRY!” she states, holding her little tummy and making her eyes big.

“I have peanuts for you!”

She just looks at me.

“Or here is a little orange!”

“I want a COOKIE!”

This is easy.

“You know it’s just Baba and I living here. We don’t have any cookies because we don’t eat cookies.”

She just looks at me, boldly. She is not defiant, but there is something unbending in her posture, and in her unwavering eyes.

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(Thank you Cliparts.co for use of the free image)

Then those little eyes do a quick flick to the table, and back to me. Very quick, almost imperceptible, but I catch it, and I can’t help it, I start to laugh.

She’s right. We do have cookies, they are in the assembly of items I have to take to our Thanksgiving gathering. I had forgotten, but this sharp eyed little minx spotted them.

“You’ll have one on Thanksgiving, I promise you. And look, here are the snacks we have for you (all her favorites) for the drive down.

Telling my friend about it later, she asked “You didn’t open the package and give her a cookie?”

That had never occurred to me. “I should have?” I asked.

“No, I wouldn’t have, either,” she laughed.

“But I would have,” interjected AdventureMan. “I never say no my my grandkids.”

LOL, that is totally true. I am the one who doesn’t want them thinking they can have sweets every time they ask, and AdventureMan is the good guy, who gives them whatever their little hearts desire. They both adore AdventureMan. 🙂

November 20, 2016 Posted by | Aging, Counter-terrorism, Family Issues, Food, Humor, Parenting, Relationships | 1 Comment