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Expat wanderer

Cooking Up That Angry Food

I have a friend that helps me keep my house clean. I started out as her employer, and now we have become friends. She lives a very different life from me, and I learn from her. Sometimes her perceptions will catch me by surprise.

As we were talking about volunteers and volunteering in churches, we found our churches to be very similar – and I am betting these experiences are universal.

“I’ve always liked washing dishes,” I tell her, “because nobody else wants the job, nobody is telling me how to do it, and I can just keep my head down and stay out of the uproars.”

“Yeh,” she says, “arguing over the little things, cooking up that angry food.”

“Angry food?” I ask.

“”Yeh, you know, you can taste it. When people are calm and happy, they cook differently, and the food comes out good, you can taste the love in it. When they in a hurry, or upset about something, food come out angry.”

Yep. I’ve cooked an angry meal or two myself. It’s a waste of good ingredients. You might as well just open a can of soup as cook angry food.

December 16, 2016 Posted by | Advent, Community, Cooking, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Food, Humor, Quality of Life Issues, Survival | Leave a comment

Monday is Homework Day

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This is not the life we expected – it is so much better. Before we retired, my husband asked me what we would do, and I said I knew what I would do, but I didn’t know what he would do; he would have to figure out what he wanted to do. But I was wrong. I didn’t know what I would be doing.

Life evolves. One decision leads to another, down paths you can’t foresee.

I had no idea I would love my grandchildren so much. I had no idea how much joy being close to our adult son and his wife would be, watching them mature, seeing them parent so lovingly and patiently. The other day, he spotted a photo of a time we were on our way to a German Military Ball; he said “How old were you in this photo?” and as we figured it out, we were almost exactly the age he is now. That was a moment of wonder to all of us. It helps us to remind ourselves that he no longer needs parenting, no more than we did at his age. He needs respect, and the support of a loving family that can mind their own business unless asked for input.

Doing kindergarten homework is mind-numbing. Q, who is a smart little boy, looked at me and said “when you do the same thing over and over, it is really boring.” He loves new words, so I said “when you do the same thing over and over again, that is called ‘repetitious’,” and he said “Yes, so it is repetitious and BORING.” We both laughed.

While it IS boring, what he is doing now is also crucial, mastering his numbers and how they work together, and his letters, and distinguishing “b”s from “d”s, and “g”s from “q”s and a lot of learning just requires that repetition to engrave it in your mind. He is learning to write, and he is adept at reading books above his level – but it all takes work.

We have some break activities. He can run laps around my first floor, running a circle which I make him change direction every now and then. He can jump on my running trampoline. He can play hide and seek with his Baba. We are working on jig-saw puzzles, and for fun, he gets to play one of Baba’s computer games requiring strategic thinking skills.

We still do our volunteering, our church activities, our house things. We have lunch out almost every day; we are free until after school.

While the homework is for the whole week, we have discovered that dragging it out is just that – a drag. Get it done! Just do it! We are learning to focus, and the work is not that hard. When we finish the homework, we have the rest of the week to play!

Today I was exploring online, looking for an old African recipe I have for African Gingerbread. This is a really old recipe; what I liked about it is that when you add the baking soda and molasses, it fizzes and bubbles. I looked in all my books, but in my never-ending quest to get rid of, get rid of, get rid of, not to burden myself with too many THINGS, I must have given away that particular book. But as I was looking for the recipe online, the only place I found it . . . was here. On my own blog! Old Fashioned Gingerbread. It makes me grin, thinking of how thrilled this five year old will be when we make old fashioned African gingerbread and it all starts fizzing. Woo HOOOO!

When the homework is done, the fun begins!

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Cooking, Cultural, Education, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Language, Living Conditions, Parenting, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings, Recipes, Relationships, Work Related Issues | 5 Comments

Business in New Orleans

Once we discovered how easy it is to go to New Orleans, even just for the day, we are hooked. When Zito’s Metal Polishing & Plating called to tell us our pieces were finished and offered to mail them (free of charge) to us, AdventureMan said “Oh no, we’ll come get them” and set the date. We invited a friend who also has some pieces that need re-tinning to be usable, and off we went.

You may think this is trivial, but for us, it is beautiful:

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Gas is so much cheaper in Louisiana. Of course, it takes nearly half a tank to get there, so I don’t suppose we are saving so much, LOL.  When I saw my old friends, my copper pots, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I don’t think they looked this good in Damascus, where I bought them, on The Street Called Straight. Who knows if we will ever be able to walk the streets of Damascus again?

 

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Zito’s was able to replace a handle on the brass piece we bought, oh so long ago, in the Khan al Khalili in Cairo.

 

These pieces are, I believe, more beautiful now than when I bought them! I had the pots re-tinned because I have used them cooking many many times over the last 35 years, but now I am afraid to use them, they are so beautiful!

 

We stayed out of the tourist areas with Mardi Gras madness in full swing, and found a fabulous Thai restaurant, La Thai, on Prytania, (voted Best Thai in New Orleans,) when our two Ethiopian restaurants were both closed. It was a wonderful happenstance; we had a great meal (scallops!) and we also were able to finish our day in New Orleans with a tour of City Park and ice cream at the Creole Creamery. Oh wow. Flavors like King Cake Ice Cream, and Red Velvet Ice Cream and 5 Spice Ginger. It was a great day.

January 23, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, Mardi Gras, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Shopping, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Nile: Ethiopian Food in New Orleans

It’s just not fair. There are NO Ethiopian restaurants in Pensacola, but there are two, on the same street, Magazine,  in New Orleans, and not far from one another. We ate at one in late October, when we were in New Orleans for the day getting a new passport, Cafe Abyssinia. We would have gone back, but they were closed for the holidays, and we decided to try the Nile, just up the street.

Oh. We are so glad we did!

 

From the outside:

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The menu; short, sweet, everything you need.

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The interior is light and bright, even on a cloudy day. I loved the high ceilings and the spacious feeling.

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But best of all is the food. We ordered the vegetarian assortment (on the left) and the Doro Wat, a mildly spicy chicken dish, sometimes called the National Dish. I first heard about Doro Wat in Vargese’s Cutting for Stone, and have been ordering it whenever I could. This time, it was just spicy enough (we like spicy). I like the sauce so much, I don’t even care about the chicken, or the hard boiled egg. Just the sauce is so delicious. It is messy, you eat it with the spongy bread, injera, and even if you are very delicate, you usually have a mess. I use a lot of napkins, and even when you wash your hands, hours later you will still smell the spices on your hand (in a good way).

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There is a whole basket of the rolled injera in the upper left corner, as well as more underneath the vegetarian selections and the Doro Wat.

January 1, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Cooking, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Palais Medina and Spa in Fes, Morocco

We were delighted to get to our hotel in Fes, the Palais Medina and Spa Hotel. Our room was very comfortable, but my shoes were muddy from Volubilis, and I forgot to take a photo of the room because I really, really needed to wash my shoes off and hope they would dry by the next day as we hike around Fes.  It was very large, very beautiful, had a seating area and a huge bathroom. The bed was marvelous.

 

The Hotel had some quirks. As we were about to board the elevator, others from our ship were getting off and saying “We are NOT going to stay here!” and we wondered what that was all about. On our floor, the hallway was so dimly lit that we struggled to figure out where the card went into the door. But the room was lovely, comfortable, quiet, and it had a wonderful view.

 

We hurried down to dinner, seeing a sign that said “group dining” we knew where to go.

 

(I didn’t take this photo; I lifted it from the hotel website, but it looks like the room we stayed in)

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From the elevator area into the lobby area:

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View at night from our balcony looking left

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View early in morning looking out

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More view. It really was a lovely room.

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This has to be one of the worst experiences of the tour, tied with trying to get through Charles DeGualle to catch our Atlanta flight. The dining room was chaos.

“Grab a place, quickly; they are already starting to take the food away!” one fellow passenger urged us. We found places with friends, then went to search the inevitable buffet. There were still plenty of salad-y things, but entree pickings were slim. People in this hotel were elbowing one another out of the way, as if they had never seen food before, and this food was not worth elbowing anyone out of the way. It was buffet food, and the message it sent me was “this hotel takes groups because we have to in order to stay afloat, but we hate groups.” Dinner was purely awful. I can’t even remember what we found to eat, but except for a pumpkin soup, it was not good and not memorable food except for being not-good.

You’d think it would be hard to screw up breakfast, but breakfast was worse. They had those two little coffee maker things, and long lines waiting for both tea and coffee. Worse – there were no coffee cups! Not one! After a while a few showed up, and what happened when fewer coffee cups than coffee drinkers were available showed us just how very thin the veneer of civilization is. This was our experience at this ultra-first-class hotel. Horrors!

Lesson learned: I did spot a restaurant separate from the group dining restaurant. Knowing now what I know, I would choose to pay for a good Moroccan meal at the private-dining restaurant. Morocco just isn’t that expensive, and Moroccan cuisine is delicious, worth paying for! I would never settle for a mediocre meal, paid for as part of our tour, just because it was paid for. Life is too short!

 

On the other hand, it was late, we had a long day, I still needed to make sure my shoes were cleaned, and we just wanted to grab a bite and go. This was a nice hotel, but not a stellar experience.

December 27, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Civility, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Quality of Life Issues, Rants, Restaurant, Travel, Values | , , | Leave a comment

Houseguests and Rabies and Wedding Anniversaries

We’ve had a lot of wedding anniversaries, AdventureMan and I. Some anniversaries we have sacrificed to national security, as AdventureMan would be called to go to the field, or head out on some exercise. There are a few which have been truly memorable. If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you will know that the ones we remember are probably not those that include roses, or wine and a fine meal and a beautiful gift, although we have had those.

One, we remember because we ate at a very fine restaurant, very snooty, and the waiter made a big deal out of presenting us with chilled forks for our salad course. We could barely keep a straight face, it is so far from anything we would consider a priority.

Another, and we howl with laughter – now – was the wedding anniversary when we had just arrived in Germany from Saudi Arabia, and found a lovely apartment on the top floor of an old mansion in a village I loved. When we got back to the car, AdventureMan said “Did you notice it is not furnished?” and I said we can find what we need at the re-utilization office, which is alway selling off used furniture.

Indeed, two days later there was a huge sale at the re-utilization center and we bought a dining room set, living room chairs, three big cupboards for holding clothes and some lamps, etc – all for $53. We’ve always had great luck that way. I had a lot of fun re-upholstering the chairs, and the landlord threw in a bed for us.

But as we sat in the car, on our anniversary, I said “Now, you probably need to take me to the hospital so we can get my bite looked at.” A few hours before leaving Saudi Arabia, the cat I had been feeding bit me, hard, on the arm. It ws one of those bites where the incisors went deep. I’d have liked to ignore the bite, but rabies is an ugly way to die, and I sure didn’t want to stay in Saudi Arabia to be treated.

So we headed to the hospital, and the next few hours were excruciating. Then we went to a favorite old Mexican restaurant we had known from years before, and that was our anniversary, truly memorable. We still laugh; we remember finding that lovely old apartment, and then having to go to the emergency room.

As an aside, the landlord didn’t tell us he was trying to sell the mansion, and nine months later, we were looking again for an apartment. We became very good friends with the new owners, and are friends with them to this very day.

This wedding anniversary was a non-event, we had houseguests, and their customs and daily lives are so very different that celebrating a wedding anniversary would have been far outside their comfort zone. We had a friend from Saudi Arabia and his 10 year old son.

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We received an e-mail from them saying (I will paraphrase a little here) ‘we have reservations to come to Pensacola for 26 days and we want to stay with you.’ There was more, but that was the essence. AdventureMan looked at me and said “I think we need to do this” and I was glad, because I had been thinking the same thing.

I think I have told you about our friends who welcome the stranger, so I think God had been preparing us for this visit, and for us to do it.

How did it go? It was challenging. There were times we just wanted it to be over, and there were times our friends must have found us to be very disappointing. There were continual clashes in expectations, and there was a very large well of good will out of which we continually drew. There were uncomfortable moments regarding meals, and meal times, and getting up times, and where we would go. There were also some fabulous meals and some truly wonderful conversations.

I know they were sorry to go. I know they want to come back again for another visit. We have no regrets; we are glad we did this, and we are also glad to have our very normal American lives back. We like this man very much, and we know this visit was a challenge for him, too.

But as we are hollering back and forth, we are laughing, this is one of those anniversaries we will never forget, the year we had our Saudi house guests.

We are aging, AdventureMan and I. We are no longer truly nomadic, living out of our suitcases. We have everything we own in this one house, except our other house. We no longer have other furniture in storage, and we have trimmed down a lot on the load of things we have collected. Maybe the one thing we truly fear is becoming too settled, and this visit was a wonderful way to shake things up a little bit, to force us out of our comfortable routines, and to force us to see our lives through the eyes of others.

It has given us a lot to think about.

Happy Anniversary, AdventureMan 🙂

June 13, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Character, Civility, Communication, Community, Cooking, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Experiment, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Saudi Arabia | 6 Comments

The MidPoint Cafe on Route 66

It’s one of those long lonely Texas roads, one with few stops along the way and it is time to eat. It is also Easter, and who knows what will be open and if there is any room at the inn, so to speak.

I spot a large CAFE sign near a gas station in an otherwise unpromising tiny strip of town. It is surrounded by cars, so we exit and head over to where the signs are.

Great choice.

There was a large chain-foods-with-greasy-selections at one of the gas stations, but the cafe was one of those home-cookin’ kinds of places, and full of tables of folk just out of church and looking to have an Easter meal out.

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The Mid Point Cafe is exactly halfway from the beginning of Route 66 to its end.

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After two large groups (the Baptists and the Methodists, I think) departed, the owner, Dennis Purschwitz, had some time to talk with us. He had recently bought the MidPoint, talked officials into helping update the MidPoint signs, got all kinds of people to donate labor and supplies to make an interest point happen.

And he wasn’t even from around there. Now, he has retired (mostly) from engineering and is living his dream, running the MidPoint Cafe. He brought life back to a town with no dining out places, and gave people a place to gather. He is busy helping a community remain viable.

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The food was excellent; the home made pies even better. A couple were already sold out, so AdventureMan reserved a piece of Coconut Creme before we even ordered lunch. This was one of those great stops that happen on a road trip; we didn’t know it was there and now, we are so glad it is.

May 6, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Character, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Eating Out, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | 1 Comment

The Ahwahnee Dining Room

American diners have steadily avoided formal dining situations, it is a growing trend. I have to admit, unless I am in France, I’m less enchanted by all the formality than I used to be. I still love beautiful china and gleaming silver, snowy white real linen tablecloths and impeccable service, and at the same time, I really have to be in the mood. It really has to be worth the time, time to make the reservation, time to dress, time to enjoy a leisurely meal.

The Ahwahnee has that kind of dining room.

We ate almost every meal during our stay there. We found we liked the lunch menu better than the dinner menu, as we prefer eating our larger meal mid-day and eating lighter at night.

You have to have reservations, even when it is not high season. If you don’t, you may miss one of life’s great experiences. There is a dress code for the Ahwahnee dining room, both for men and for women. It’s a very mild dress code. They prefer coats for men, skirts for women, no T-shirts, shirts with collars only.

We were shown to what became our favorite table at the Ahwahnee, way at the end of the dining room, in a small alcove with five or six other tables, and a stunning view of the entire dining room, as well as mountains and trees. This is table 123, and a view of the 30+ feet high timbered ceiling which gives the dining room its grandeur.

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My very first meal there, I saw they had a Shrimp Louis on the menu. Shrimp Louis is very west coast; not something I get in Pensacola. This Shrimp Louis was my dream come true; it was served with real Louis dressing, not Thousand Island dressing. I nearly swooned with delight.

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AdventureMan has BBQ pork. He said it was good, but he gets good BBQ in the South 🙂 so he wasn’t swooning.

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The next day, he ordered a Reuben, and said it was good. He hasn’t had a lot of Reubens, and he said this one had a LOT of meat, but it was good meat, and that matters to him. He enjoyed it thoroughly.

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I had the Trout. I adore trout. This was pretty good.

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I didn’t take photos at the dinner meals, and some of our meals we also ate in the Ahwahnee bar, where they had a lighter menu, and we thoroughly enjoyed that, too.

You know me and light fixtures; I really loved all the details that go into making this such a designer’s dream of a hotel:

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April 26, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Civility, Cooking, Cultural, Eating Out, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

Blue Onion in McAllen, TX: A Great Surprise

Sometimes you get a great surprise when you least expect it. We needed to get on the road, but we also needed lunch, so we just needed “a place” somewhere, anywhere we could find something decent, something acceptable. We weren’t going for great.

We got great.

The Blue Onion looked kind of new, it still had that new smell. It’s walls were a froggy green. It’s floor was a froggy green. Never-mind, we just need to eat and run.

But the staff was warm and welcoming and chatty-in-a-good-way, and the menu was intriguing. We saw one man order Bouillabaisse. In McAllen, TX. I ordered a Pizza Putanesca, and AdventureMan ordered some kind of barbecue wrap.

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Even the ice tea was delicious. When my pizza came, it was divine, memorable, maybe one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten. AdventureMan was chowing down on his wrap, making sounds of joy, little moans of pleasure as he ate. His side salad of black beans was also very good, very fresh tasty with lime and cilantro combined with some spices in a delicious way.

Our just-a-quick-stop-before-we-hit-the-road stop turned out to be a meal highlight of our trip. 🙂

April 15, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Cooking, Eating Out, Food, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Queen of Sheba in Atlanta, ReVisit

We’ve talked about the Queen of Sheba Ethiopian restaurant in Atlanta ever since we found it several years ago. We know just how to get there, so we wait for Atlanta going-home traffic to die down. Atlanta is an hour ahead of Pensacola, so we have time before we get hungry.

It is so cold, and the cold results in a sharp, clear night in Atlanta. All the buildings are beautifully lit; Atlanta looks beautiful at night. We successfully navigate from freeway to freeway and miss our exit, but when we take the next exit – at Emory university – there are all the ethnic restaurants in the world, including the Trip Advisor #1 rated Ethiopian restaurant, Desta, which we briefly consider and then head on to the Queen of Sheba, just minutes down the road.

It is still there, in a shabby looking strip mall next to the Target, between the halal meat shop and the dusty looking shop that sells international plugs and wiring.

We order our favorite, the Vegetarian Injera, and we also order a Tilapia.

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Every taste on this Veg plate is different from the other. It is a fabulous dish, enough for two, filling, but also satisfying because of all the tastes. While I don’t normally care about tilapia, the Tilapia below was the best I have ever eaten, crispy and perfectly cooked. You pull the fish off the bone with pieces of injera (the pancake on which you can see the veg dishes) or even with your bare fingers. It was all as delicious as we remembered.

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We have so many wonderful restaurants in Pensacola, but no Ethiopian restaurants. The closest is in New Orleans. We know we will be coming back again to the Queen of Sheba.

February 25, 2015 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Road Trips | , , , , , | Leave a comment