Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The National Butterfly Center, Mission, TX

AdventureMan was chuffed. Here we are at the National Butterfly Center! There were already visitors there, early in the morning, but, for the most part, he achieved his goal. He had all the time he needed with the Butterfly Garden gardener, and the two of them talked plants that attract, plants that nourish and plants for the pupa and caterpillar stages. This was sheer luxury for AdventureMan, all the time in the world to talk shop with someone who cares about the same things he does – attracting and breeding butterflies!

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They have a huge list of all the butterfly sightings and when they were sighted. The Center is right in the path for many butterfly migrations. They have a huge Butterfly Center Celebration at the end of October, early November during the height of the migration. Over 150 North American species of butterfly have been spotted at the NBC. If you click on the blue hypertext, you can see when this year’s festival will be.

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These are just a few of the gardens used to propagate plants to attract, feed and nurture the butterfly reproduction:

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Here is how to get there:

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National Butterfly Center
3333 Butterfly Park Drive
Mission, TX 78572
956-583-5400
GPS Coordinates:
26.180243 -98.364973

April 13, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, Family Issues, Gardens, Geography / Maps, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Cold Saturday Morning in Pensacola

It is warming, but “warm” is relative. Compared to 19°F, 31°F is “warm.” In terms of hands and toes and cold tile floors, it is still very cold. I was reminded this morning of how very cold I was in Kuwait those few January days when it would get down to 0°C; when windows are not sealed tightly and all your floors are marble, it’s like having winter inside your home.

And that is how my doves must feel. Normally, they sleep under our rosemary bush, or snuggle down under the lavender. I think, now that we have pulled a lot of our larger potted plants in close to the house under the awning, they are sleeping under our plants. This morning, they know I am here, with my camera, and they don’t care. They want to catch a few more ZZZzzzz’s in the first few rays of the early morning sun.

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They fluff up their wings to capture air and warm it with their bodies. Look how puffed up this one looks, about twice it’s normal size.

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AdventureMan goes out every day and breaks the ice in the bird bath, and puts in fresh water. People are good about feeding birds, but forget how hard it can be for them to find water when outdoor temperatures fall into the freezing zone.

January 10, 2015 Posted by | Birds, Gardens, Kuwait, Pensacola, Weather, Wildlife | | 2 Comments

10 Degrees Colder Than Juneau

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We slept in this morning. It’s Thursday, the happiest day of my week, no water aerobics, no obligations, a day when I can plan, prepare and execute. It just gave me a laugh when I saw today’s temperatures, to see that we are colder than Alaska.

AdventureMan wrapped our lemon tree, and we dragged all our potted plants in near to the house, undercover but not inside. We thought we lost everything last January, when the same major temperature dip came – and stayed – but most of our things surprised us and struggled back, albeit a month or so later than usual. Note to Pensacola gardeners – don’t be in a hurry to dig out and toss after a hard frost, be patient. Your plants may be more resilient than you knew.

January 8, 2015 Posted by | Gardens, Living Conditions, Statistics, Weather | Leave a comment

Brother’s BBQ

It’s getting close to Christmas, and AdventureMan had asked that I take a ride with him to check out Earth Products, and then have lunch with him at Brother’s BBQ. Between you and me, AdventureMan is purely a sucker for BBQ, but he took me to Tudo’s for lunch yesterday, my Pensacola comfort food, and it isn’t a struggle for me to enjoy a good BBQ, so I was happy to make him happy today. 🙂

It’s what I love about AdventureMan. He totally gets me. He grumbles now and then about how hard I am to buy for. He tells our friends “she doesn’t want diamonds, just picks out a house now and then.”

But today’s trips to Earth Products was totally worth it. Earth Products has all kinds of landscaping supplies, including glorious pots! Not the pots you find in the big box stores, but pots that remind me of the Middle East. Great big pots. Urns. Pots that might have stored olive oil in another life, or hidden Ali Baba’s thieves. Pots with elephants on them. Wonderful pots, just exactly the pots for my front porch and the rosemary bushes I want. I almost danced with glee at the number of wonderful pots.

It is a wonderful day, not too hot, not too cold and when we get to Brother’s BBQ, we decide to sit outside.

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Sitting outside has an additional benefit – they are in the process of preparing the chicken and the brisket. They are smoking it right now. The aromas are heavenly.

The porch is a very friendly place to sit, we discover. It’s amazing how many people have discovered Brothers BBQ. They are close to the Navy Base, and have a lot of loyal military customers, but they also have a lot of local and corporate customers, and retired folk popping by. They have dining in, they have carry-out, and they also cater. There is a large area for eating outside, as well as on the porch.

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You can see what they offer on your placemat:

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AdventureMan ordered his usual – BBQ Pulled Pork, with beans and coleslaw:

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I ordered my usual, a dark quarter BBQ chicken, with beans and slaw:

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It was excellent. Give it a try when you are on the west side of town. You can’t miss them, they are where you find the huge column of mouth-watering smoke just off Gulf Beach Highway:

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3309 Gulf Beach Hwy, Pensacola, FL 32507
(850) 455-4744

November 21, 2014 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Christmas, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Family Issues, Gardens, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Restaurant, Shopping | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Every Monkey Gets His Turn in the Barrel

Sometimes there is no one to blame, not even a way to blame yourself and things just go off track. We had such an experience coming to Baton Rouge, a sweet drive on a beautiful day.

We had called the day before to tell them we would not be arriving that day, but we had already paid for the room and we asked them to hold it, that we would arrive the next day. After five hours on the road, we were eager for a chance to settle in and relax before AdventureMan headed off to his afternoon sessions.

The room wasn’t ready. The room we had paid for, and expected to be held, was not held. We were on the “wait list”, the snippy, disrespectful girl at the executive desk told AdventureMan as I circled the crowded parking lot, desperately seeking a spot. I curse you, big ass trucks who park over the line! I curse you, arrogant drivers who take two spaces when you park!

AdventureMan calls me; you do not want a call from AdventureMan when things haven’t gone his way and he cannot make his will dominate the situation. We decide the best strategy is to go to lunch.

(see entry for Ninfa’s Mexican restaurant)

After lunch, we try again, softly talking with the desk clerk, Scott, who is helpful. He takes pity on us, and finds us a room which is ready, and accommodates us. He soothes us. AdventureMan heads off for his garden talk and I head off on a reconnaissance mission – I have seen there is a huge mall nearby with a Macy’s. I find it, and some other wonderful places for the next day’s adventures, and then, on my way home, I get another call from AdventureMan.

He is fuming. I hadn’t answered his call because I was driving, no matter, he kept calling and texting “call me!” until I could find a red light and call him.

He heard loud chords of a band starting up. Very loud. He went to the band and casually asked them how long they would be playing, and was told from six to ten. He went to the desk and asked for a room change, and was told the hotel was full. (He also mentioned that he was SO glad to have been helped earlier, as there was a huge line waiting for rooms at 4.)

“We need to change hotels!” he started and told me the whole story.

“I’m almost there!” I responded, but it took me another ten minutes to find a parking place.

By the time I got to the room, he had calmed down – a little – and had found a wonderful place to go for dinner. We heard a few chords – actually not bad – and headed out for a wonderful dinner at Al Basha’s, and it was a total mood changer 🙂

When we got back, the band was blasting, and we are one of the nearest rooms to the band, and the hotel is full of people around our age, but the truth is, the band was pretty good, and we had some shows we like on cable, and they really did quit at ten, well before we turned out the lights.

When things go not-quite-right – and that happens to everyone – I just sigh and say “every monkey gets his turn in the barrel;” I guess it’s sort of karmic, but bad things happen, they happen to everyone. This was not earth-shaking bad, just annoying, not going smoothly bad. We will never stay in this hotel again, even if the conference is held here again; there are lovely hotels nearby in Baton Rouge.

October 23, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Bureaucracy, Customer Service, Gardens, Road Trips, Travel | , , | 6 Comments

The Fresh Breath of Fall and Bicycling in the Water

Our grandson is back in swimming lessons, and I have to admit, it is one of my favorite things to do with him. I get to pick him up at school and get him ready, then shower him down and take him home. During all that we have the most amazing conversations, and we laugh a lot, too. Yesterday he did something new, something he called “bicycling in the water” that we used to call “treading.” He had never done it before, and he was good at it. There are days when you are greatly blessed, if you only have the eyes to see it.

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AdventureMan and I are having too much fun! We are in the midst of planning two smaller trips, and one larger trip. We call back and forth from office to office – “Have you looked at this place? It gets great reviews!” or “You could book that motel where I stayed when I went there with the birding group!”

 

The first trip we will take will be in conjunction with a conference AdventureMan will attend, and then we will head on into the southwestern wilds of Louisiana, tracking the Cajun Nature Trail, ending up in Houma after several days. We love knockin’ around with our binos and cameras on the backroads, love the moodiness of James Burke Country, True Detectives, the pure idiosyncratic nature of southern Louisiana.

The next trip will be in the other direction, back to a birding area through which the birds travel south when winter sets in.

The third – back to France! Wooo HOOOOOO!

Fall is kicking in in Pensacola, AdventureMan is out mulching and trimming up the garden, taking out a summerload of weeds, and I am grinning at a lowering utility bill. Even a few degrees difference make a giant reduction in the need for the A/C. I am smiling more; the humidity is lifting and I can feel cool temperatures around the corner. My favorite time of the year!

September 30, 2014 Posted by | ExPat Life, France, Gardens, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Travel, Weather | | Leave a comment

ECUA Water/Sewer “Averaging” in Pensacola

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My third year in Pensacola, I got a huge shock. My water/sewage bill jumped, jumped horribly. I knew we had used a lot of water in October and November of the previous year, because we had installed some new landscaping in October which needed watering in, but I had no idea why EVERY month my bill was so high.

Then the fourth year, the bill came and it was so low, I called and said “I think there has been a mistake.” I didn’t want to be getting a huge bill the next month to rectify the mistake. The wonderful customer service woman asked me if I didn’t know about “averaging.” No. I’m new. I don’t know about averaging, and I have never heard anyone talk about it.

She explained that in November, December and January, they average water use and then use it to estimate the sewage bill for the entire year, since they can’t separate water used for watering lawns and water used that goes into sewage. Most people, she explained, turn off their outside water around November. Evidently, horrified by my huge bills resulting from watering in the landscaping, I had been extremely careful in the last year, and was greatly blessed with much smaller water bills.

As it turns out, it’s not just new people who don’t know about “averaging.” There are a lot of people who have lived here their entire lives who don’t know about it either. Last year, aware of averaging, I watched for the announcement, which wasn’t really an announcement. In the ECUA newsletter, buried deep in one of the columns, was a mention that averaging would begin in November, depending on your billing, on or around the middle of November.

You can call ECUA Customer Service (850-476-0480) and find out close to when your meter is checked in November – for you, that is when averaging starts. Averaging runs November – December – January and measures how much water you use and uses that to compute your sewerage amount. If you are careful about your water use in those three months, you will lower your water bill for the entire year.

September 16, 2014 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Community, Customer Service, Environment, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Gardens, Living Conditions, Pensacola | Leave a comment

“Pesto; The Quiche of the ’80’s”

It’s still hot, hitting the nineties, but something is changing. You can see it in the angle of the sunlight, especially at sun rise and sun set, the directions have changed, the angles have changed, and the colors are richer.

 

Time to harvest the basil. This is not my garden, nor my basket, nor my garden, but the resemblance is uncanny, and this is a great photo for illustrative purposes.

 

 

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We grow a lot of basil, pots and pots of basil. After early church, I hit the pots with my garden shears. I trim off all the little flowers on top (I’ve been doing this all summer, but I never seem to keep on top of it) and then I trim back the branches, laden with basil. I have an entire basket full of Genovese, which, after picking off the leaves, washing them and spinning them dry, come to 12 cups of basil.

 

Doesn’t everything go better with a little pesto? I love to smear a little on my BLT’s, I love to pop a spoonful into a soup, and oh my holy tomato, basil pesto on pasta, to die for.  I know what I want to do, but I want to be sure I get proportions right, so I go to The Silver Palate Cookbook, it came out years and years ago and has a lot of basic but really really good recipes. So, how old is this cookbook? When I was looking at the Pesto page, there was a box that said “Pesto – the quiche of the ’80’s” or something like that which implied pesto was the newest, most wonderful thing – in the ’80’s.

 

“????” I thought.

 

Isn’t pesto one of those classics? Maybe it’s because we frequented Italian restaurants when I was going to high school in Germany, but I remember pesto. It’s not like quiche (which, by the way, is my grandson’s favorite thing), it’s no passing trend, pesto is classico!

 

I made all the  batches with garlic, lots of garlic, about triple what the recipe calls for, and I roasted it before I tossed it in. One batch I made with almonds, one batch with sunflower seeds and the last batch with my all time favorite, walnuts. I labeled little snack bags, put globs of pesto in them, sealed them up, put them all in one big gallon sized plastic bag and sealed that up and put the whole lot in the freezer, to pull on on those days when I need a pop of flavor and a taste of the long hot summer.

 

Here is my variation on the Silver Palate recipe:

 

Basil Genovese Pesto

4 cups basil, packed, washed, dried in salad spinner (or whatever) still fresh and green

8 – 12 cloves garlic, peeled, roasted

2/3 cup really good olive oil

some salt and some pepper. The best thing is coarsely ground salt and coarsely ground pepper that you’ve ground yourself.

about 1/2 cup nuts. Pine nuts are classic, as are walnuts, but pesto is one of those dishes with a lot of variation based on what God’s great earth hath provided. I don’t even measure the nuts, just eyeball it. I used walnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds in separate batches.

In a nice large food processor, put in nuts, garlic, salt, pepper, oil and then pack in 4 cups of basil. Process until you have a gritty ball. You won’t be able to see any leaves, but you will be able to see specks of white. Spoon into freezer containers in usable amounts and freeze.

September 14, 2014 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Cooking, Cultural, ExPat Life, Food, Gardens, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Recipes, Weather | 2 Comments

If You Have Eyes To See

Today is a blessing, clear and simple, today the winds are from the north, blowing away all the heat and humidity and the dismal rains of yesterday. Today I got my first cup of coffee, fed the Qatari Cat and went outside for a walk in the garden.

We have a miracle or two out there. I had two avocado trees, trees I had grown from pits of avocados we have eaten, trees taller than I am. In the lengthy cold spell we had, they lost all their leaves. We kept waiting to see if the leaves would come back, but none did. We trimmed them back; sometimes trimming can help. No leaves. We kept talking about maybe its time to use the pots for the next generation of avocado trees but did nothing. Then, one morning, AdventureMan came running in saying “You have to come look!” From the base of each trunk, each tree has new avocado trees coming up. Woooo HOOOOOOO, God is good!

Our roses all made it and all the roses in the yard are in full flower, thanks to the deluge(s) we have received. The guara is coming back – even spreading, which is good, I love guara. Given the harshness of the winter and the 29″ of rain we received in one night, we are so blessed to have come out of it so well.

Best of all, just being able to walk out into 58°F with a little shiver, walk freely, no mosquitos, turn off the A/C for a few hours and open doors and windows to get all the stuffiness out – sheer heaven.

May 15, 2014 Posted by | Faith, Gardens, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Weather | | Leave a comment

Spring: Hope Eternal

Yesterday we had a crew at our house helping us get the gardens cleared out and some replacements put in. Most of our plants had survived the first great freeze, but the second freeze did them in – or so we thought.

Even the bougainvillea, which people assured me would not thrive in Pensacola, shows signs of coming back. The Plumbago, originally a native of South Africa, is showing some tiny signs of resilience. The grasses survived; we even took part of the Pampas grass and started a new area elsewhere. The mints, the lavender, the thyme, oregano, cilantro, the parsleys, the rosemarys – they thrived. The sages are coming back with a vengence. The drift roses are blooming early. It is truly a fabulous Spring, full of hope and a little replanting.

One of our very favorites, the Mona Lavender (which is not a lavender at all, but a gorgeous shrubby plant) totally bit the dust. My cherished begonia looks melted. I have accepted that it’s not coming back.

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Pensacola this week is a sea of azaleas. Who knew azaleas came in so many vibrant colors? While many yards are that intense fuchsia, there are also yards full of white, pink, deep coral, light coral, deep burgundy azaleas. I smile every time I see them and think of our Saudi friend living here, who called them Ah-za-LEE-as. We call them that now, too, just between AdventureMan and me. 🙂

I can only guess that something in the great Pensacola freeze ignited in the azaleas an urge toward survival that resulted in the most amazing display of luxurious, abundant blossoms I have ever seen.

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April 4, 2014 Posted by | Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Florida, Gardens, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Weather | Leave a comment