Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Valentines Day, and AdventureMan Scores

My greatest fear, when AdventureMan retired, was that after the life of challenge and adventure we had led, he would be bored and restless. Instead his days are full. He supervises all the house repairs and researches financial questions, plays with the grandchildren (who are able to give him a run for his money in the games they play), he supervises the landscaping and gardening, and . . . . he cooks.

He doesn’t just cook. He tries new recipes all the time. Most of the time they are really, really good. Occasionally, we just don’t care for it. But tonight, for Valentines Day, he went all out, and oh WOW.

Tonight he fixed Wagyu filets he found at a nearby butcher shop; he stuffed them with a crab mixture, and wrapped them in bacon. Oh WOW. He pounded pepper coarsely in a mortar, and patted it onto the sides before cooking, and while they were cooking, he and made a brandy-mushroom cream sauce to serve with it.

We agreed it was his BEST Mushroom sauce ever, made with Cremini mushrooms.

We went by the Craft bakery early in the day to pick up a freshly baked Focaccia, and my paltry contribution was a leafy green salad.

We feasted. We agreed this dinner matched the best we had eaten in any restaurant we could remember. It was rich. It was flavorful. AdventureMan took full honors.

He also thought to buy our last King Cake for our dessert; Lent starts this Wednesday and King Cake will be no more for another year. We are too full to eat it. AdventureMan thinks maybe in an hour, with a little French Vanilla ice cream, but I am not so sure.

February 14, 2021 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, Entertainment, Food, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues | | Leave a comment

Best Birthday Ever

A few years ago, I hit a number and I felt like my life was over. Rationally, I knew I was doing fine, but just the sound of the number hit me hard. I remember feeling the same way when I hit 50, and I thought it was going to be terrible, but that very day I went to pick up my photos for my Saudi pass and my photograph was fabulous.

OK, you know, here goes that rationality thing again. The RULES in Saudi Arabia say you are forbidden to retouch photos. The photographer just stood there with a big grin as I looked at photos of me with all signs of aging totally removed. Inside, my heart was dancing. My head knew it wasn’t really how I looked, but my heart danced.

In spite of the heartache of my Mother dying of COVID, this has turned out to be a sweet year. I had some stellar moments, dancing-heart moments. I love our new/old house, as you can guess from all the sunsets I post. Now, my son and AdventureMan installed a Little Free Library for me to care for, and another dream has come true, and my heart dances for joy. My family was together, my grandchildren helped fill the Little Free Library, and we all had cake and ice cream together, masked most of the time.

I’ve always loved libraries, and the first job I ever had, at six years old, was checking out books at the little library in Alaska. The clerk had failed to show up; the librarian was busy with a big time-sensitive book order and I volunteered. She showed me what to do. So easy a six year old could do it, and I had a ball.

I avoided book clubs until I ended up so many years in the Middle East. A group of women I knew and trusted asked me to form a book club, and I reluctantly turned them down because I didn’t want that responsibility. Very gently, they kept inviting me to start a book club and finally, I asked “Why me?”

“You’re the only one who can bring in the books we want to read,” they told me.

I learned so much from these women, and the book club was a huge blessing, a window into the way a lot of women think who are from different countries and different cultures from me. I learned how HUGE it is when ideas can be examined, and discussed openly, even when one must speak indirectly. I learned again and again how many mistaken assumptions I had made, how narrowly I saw the world. Books matter. Ideas matter. Sharing books and ideas challenge our narrow views and give us broader understanding of our complex world, and our fellow human beings.

Tonight AdventureMan is making Pasta Carbonara, which I should never eat, but once or twice a year, I do. It’s not like AdventureMan loves Pasta Carbonara; he makes it for me because I love it. Some of those excess calories come off as I dance and dance for joy.

The year I thought my life was over, some amazing things happened. I’m not going to get all excited, like this is going to be the best year ever, but I am so grateful, I feel so blessed, to have some dreams I know I dreamed come true, and some unexpected dreams I didn’t know I was dreaming also come true.

“In my life, I’ve loved them all.”

February 7, 2021 Posted by | Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Biography, Books, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Exercise, Food, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Marriage, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships | | Leave a comment

King Cake: Diet Kryptonite

There is no real dieting during pre-Lenten Mardi Gras in Pensacola. Even in times of COVID, the Mardi Gras spirit shines through.

Our particular poison is the King Cake from Craft Bakery on Davis. It actually is not too sweet, is not loaded with excessive frosting and sugar, has just enough cinnamon, and comes in a size that two people can sliver to death in a day or two. They do have larger, more normal sizes for larger groups. These small loafs are more than enough for us.

February 6, 2021 Posted by | Food, Health Issues, Humor, Lent, Mardi Gras, Pensacola | | Leave a comment

Family Coastal Restaurant, Eastpoint

After walking on the beach, we had a great appetite, so we were delighted to come across Family Coastal Restaurant, with all kinds of people parked in front. We could tell this was a popular place to gather on a Sunday morning, and it had an outdoor deck with no one on it.

Occasionally AdventureMan will read a post and remember our experience differently. This is the last time we ate in a restaurant, although I maintain we were not IN the restaurant, and AdventureMan maintains we had to walk through the (admittedly, very crowded) restaurant to get to the outdoor, screened deck, and that the servers did not wear masks, even though we did.

You know how you can tell how other people are thinking by how they look at you. Most of the camouflage-dressed hunters and local people crowded in the waiting area to have an indoor table found our mask wearing somewhere between amusing and incomprehensible.

AdventureMan reminds me how the unmasked server got right up next to me to point out something on the menu (I didn’t notice and it didn’t bother me). While we were waiting for our food, a couple other couples joined us, socially distanced, on the outdoor deck. Inside the restaurant, there was an open salad bar and tables packed closely together, and lots of happy chatting going on table to table; they all seemed to know each other and this was a local gathering place.

I was delighted the server told me that I could have my oysters grilled, as opposed to deep fried, so I ordered them with cheese grits and steamed vegetables. The oysters were OK. I ate a bite of the grits, and most of the vegetables. The hush puppies were delicious. I envied AdventureMan his meal.

Below is AdventureMan’s fried oysters, fried okra, fried onion rings and fried hushpuppies. It all looked so good, and being a generous hearted man, he shared one of the fried oysters with me. Mine didn’t take up much room on my plate . . . Fried food, when done right, just looks so appetizing . . .

When we left, it was even more crowded than when we arrived.

February 5, 2021 Posted by | Community, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Sunset and Gibsons in Apalachicola

We arrive back in Apalachicola mid-afternoon, relaxed, happy – and ready for a nap. Apalachicola is full of people. We know from experience that many of the people are day trippers, and by late afternoon they will be gone. Hey – it’s a get-away. A vacation. Naps are not just allowed, they are encouraged.

We already know where dinner will come from and that we won’t eat there. The Gibson was recently featured in Garden and Guns magazine as THE place to stay in Apalachicola. It is semi-Victorian, each room is different, it has a lively bar scene and a good restaurant. Under other conditions, a fun place to stay, but in the time of COVID, maybe not so much.

They are doing a lot of expanding, and renovating, and this is a great time to be doing it, before the great onslaught of people breaking free from travel restrictions. Actually, as AdventureMan is picking up dinner, he hears the desk clerk telling someone at the desk, “it is our last room, and it is on the third floor.” So much for travel restrictions.

I had the New Orleans BBQ Shrimp, an appetizer, and the Caesar salad. AdventureMan also had the BBQ shrimp and something else. The shrimp were good, the salad was not great and we can’t remember what else we had. Things rarely taste as good in take-out containers as they do in plates, so not the Gibson’s fault.

On this night, I also got a sunset photo:

So you could see a little piece of our hotel 🙂

February 5, 2021 Posted by | Beauty, Character, Food, Health Issues, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Sunsets, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Hamaknockers and We Exercise Bad Judgement

Have you ever noticed bad judgement happens in bunches? Like you can be really good for a long long time and once you let loose, even just a little, your self-discipline just goes to hell?

It’s all Hamaknocker’s fault.

So for the third time, we are choosing to eat inside a restaurant where not everybody is wearing masks, and how can you wear a mask while you are eating? We do manage to sit apart from the other customers dining in.

Now . . . more bad judgement.

We ordered platters. I ordered the chicken, and it was a lot. I also ordered applesauce, because I don’t see that on the menu often, and it was really, really delicious. I think it must have had a LOT of sugar in it.

AdventureMan ordered the pork, and there was a lot of pork, too.

So this was the really really bad part. We had a refrigerator back at our hotel, and it is a cold day. We COULD safely take extra food back to the hotel and enjoy it later.

We did not.

We ate the whole thing.

Hamaknockers is what we call Michelin Red R cuisine – really good local food at reasonable prices.

February 4, 2021 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Settling In to Apalachicola

Prior to Hurricane Michael, Apalachicola had a long history as home to some of the most delicious oysters in the world. Mountains of oyster shells like this were iconic Apalachicola scenes.

Apalachicola is a great little town for walking. There is a downtown with cute shops, there is a grocery store, there are several good restaurants, and lots of parking. We check in to our hotel, we take a long walk, we decide to eat early. Yes, another restaurant, but it is early and nearly empty. We find another isolated table.

The focus is definitely on drinks.

The food was OK.

We left as more people started coming in.

You can rent these houseboats for an Apalachicola stay right on the water.

I am losing the light when we come across a large pick-up full over the brim with duck decoys. The next morning, I could hear shots going off all over the estuary as hunters brought down the migrating ducks.

February 4, 2021 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Hotels, Living Conditions, Photos, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | | Leave a comment

En Route to Apalachicola

We’ve been so good. We haven’t traveled. We haven’t gathered with our friends, with our book clubs, with our church, well, not very much. We stay masked, most of the time, even with our grandchildren. We’ve had zero colds and zero flu this year, while trying to avoid COVID.

And we needed a break.

How can we do it safely, we asked ourselves. If you are reading this blog, which is a resource for travelers, I am imagining you ask the same questions. How do responsible people travel in this time of COVID?

First, I have to be frank. We are not entirely responsible. I swim at the Y three days a week. If I walk in and there are too many people, especially young people, in there, breathing, I turn around and walk out. I’ve only had to do it twice. Most days I feel safe, and another truth is, I really need to swim for my physical and mental health.

We are also risk takers, always have been, but we try to calculate our risks. So, you’ve been warned, we are not entirely safe all the time. We calculate our risks. We balance our risks.

We really needed a getaway, and we have recently sold a house so we needed a getaway and a celebration.

We usually go to Apalachicola once a year, but we haven’t been for three years now. Apalachicola has a very low rate of transmission, on the COVID map, and the place we stay is more like a residence, and very clean. I call our visits pilgrimages, because we “worship” at the nature parks of St. Marks, St. George Island, and St. Vincent. (I am making a little joke, here.)

We love Panama City beach, and I have a yen for a schnitzle, but when we get to the German restaurant, it has become a seafood restaurant. We decide we want grilled oysters, and we know another really good restaurant, but when we get there it is closed for renovations.

So we stop here:

My husband went in to ask if we can eat there if we are not bikers, and if they have grilled oysters. The very kind waiter said we could eat there, but he would recommend our going to another nearby place if we want oysters.

Dat Cajun Place is near the little Mom-and-Pop hotel we love, the Sunset Inn, but we’ve never eaten there. Today is the day. Another first for us, we are eating in a restaurant . . .

It’a big inside, so although no one is wearing a mask – NO one – we find an isolated table.

Our waiter did wear a mask. He was very kind, very gracious.

We decided to share a dozen grilled oysters. I adore grilled oysters, and they are so rich that six is always mre than enough for me. AdventureMan could eat more, but he defers to me for his own good health. I barely remembered to take the photo before they were all gone.

I had two sides; the Cajun Potato Salad and the greens. O M G those greens. Maybe it was really grilled bacon with greens . . . they were spicy and a little vinegar-y and full of bacon and with the oysters and potato salad, my life was complete.

We thought we had asked for jalepenos as a side for the oysters, but we got a big platter of deep fried jalepenos. I would NEVER order deep friend jalepenos, and they were fabulous, served with remoulade, oh heaven.

AdventureMan found his own bliss with a gorgeous Oyster Poor Boy, one of the best ever, he claims.

This was a great stop.

February 4, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Health Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

“Do You Want to Reserve for Friday night?”

I was so excited. We are headed out, our first trip since February when we took our grandchildren back to New Orleans, as we so often did until March and the advent of COVID. We’ve sold our big house, are comfortably settled in our smaller house, and I am SO ready to resume a more normal life.

I had just finished telling AdventureMan about a restaurant in a hotel we have visited several times, but we’ve never stayed in nor eaten in. The menu looks fabulous! (The Franklin in the Gibson Inn, Apalachicola). He looked at me over his reader glasses, lovingly – and sadly.

“”So do you think everyone will be masked and socially distanced?” he asked me.

“Oh,” I responded. Deflated. Sometimes, for a short while, I can totally forget the new reality of masks and social distancing, and not eating in restaurants.

We decided that as we will be staying in a lovely place with condo conveniences, we can order out. It won’t be the same, but the food will be good, we can store our leftovers in a refrigerator, and we can be safe.

Sigh.

I’m still excited. Apalachicola is beautiful, and the hotel where we stay (The Water Street Hotel) is right on the estuary. There are screened balconies where, even in this chilly weather, we can sit out and watch the heron, and fishing birds, and watch the boats stream by. We can head out to St. Marks, famous for the large flights of migratory birds at this time of the year.

It will be cold. It will also be beautiful, and it will be relatively deserted, safe from those globs of corona virus floating around where human beings breathe. We can walk to our hearts content. I can take pictures.

We like birds. We are enthralled with their beauty. It gives me a happy jolt every time I see, from my little house, a pelican, or a stork, or an eagle, or a red shouldered hawk. No, we are not birders. We like birders, but cannot begin to generate their endless enthusiasm and capability for detailed observation. We just sit back and enjoy the moment.

Apalachicola is a very old Florida town, once famous for it’s timber, and once famous for it’s oysters. The recent hurricane activity has wiped out the tasty Apalachicola oysters, at least for the next few years, and has greatly wiped out the economy of Apalachicola. We look forward to lifting that economy, as best we can, with our visit, and we encourage you to do the same.

January 13, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Birds, Community, Eating Out, Florida, Food, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | | Leave a comment

Prepping Dinner, Prepping My Week

We were waiting for our pick-up order at Gulf Coast Seafood when I turned to AdventureMan and said “I’ll be right back; I want to pick up some crab.”

I love this place. Not only do I get really good blackened salmon, just the way this Alaska girl likes it , or some of Pensacola’s best fried oysters on the rare day when I can’t resist temptation, they also have really good hush puppies, and they give me steamed broccoli to dip in my baked beans. On top of all this good food, Gulf Coast Seafood is a Patti restaurant, and has a seafood store in the same building as the restaurant.

And they have crab. They have fresh salmon. They have bags of oysters, fresh every day. I pick up a pound of crab for Sunday dinner, thinking a garlicy cream crab sauce over angel hair pasta.

Today, after church, Adventureman asks if I want to go with him to Craft Bakery for a croissant or pain au chocolat, and wouldn’t you know, there is a beautiful gorgeous foccacio bread and my previous idea went out the window and now I am thinking crab salad and smoked gruyere baked in pockets of this gorgeous bread.

Crab salad

On a roll, I decided to go ahead and make a big batch of my oatmeal cereal – oatmeal flakes, raisins, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts or pecans, cinnamon, clove. Just add milk. I could make hot oatmeal, but I don’t like it much, so I don’t. I just eat it with milk and fresh blueberries.

Oat mix

And noticing that I have some cilantro that needs to be used up, I made a salad that I’ve only found in one restaurant ever, Cilantro and chopped peanuts with a soy sauce and rice vinegar dressing. It was from a Chinese restaurant in Doha, Qatar, which no longer exists, but a very famous restaurant.

Doha was not the Doha it is today; it was a sleepy little town on the verge of massive development. Street addresses were almost non-existent, and those that existed didn’t make any sense at all, like there was no continuity or rationality to house addresses because of the idiosyncratic development as Doha expanded.

So this restaurant, which I think was called something like Lucky Chinese, was famous because they had a book, a very large book, that told how to get to houses all over Doha. It would be unthinkable now, but Doha was a safe little village then. The first time you ordered, you had to go in person and draw a map to your house in the book. As you thumbed through, you could see the location of almost every Chinese-food-loving expat living in Doha. Those were the days when the Ambassador held an open house (LOL open bar) every Friday and all Americans were welcome. There weren’t that many Americans.

The salad is simple and delicous: chopped cilantro, chopped peanuts, rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey, water (just a little) and olive oil.

Now, I suppose (sigh) I need to go for a n(ice) cold walk.

January 10, 2021 Posted by | Cooking, Doha, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Restaurant | Leave a comment