Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Love At First Sight: Gumbo Spoons

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Vanity, vanity. When I was in university, along with our studies, we all picked out our china patterns and silver flatware. We were preparing for the rest of our lives, which meant getting married. My parents gave me six place settings when I graduated university and through the years, AdventureMan and I added settings. We used the sterling all the time, military people entertained more formally. We haunted French and German antique markets and flea markets, seeking obscure pieces we didn’t have, it was fun.

These days, not so much. I haven’t bought any silver for years. We do very little formal entertaining. My sister and her daughters have taken to using their good silver for every day. I haven’t reached that point – yet – but I am thinking about it.

In spite of the fact that we are not often using our silver flatware, at the recent Christ Church Antique Fair, a woman celebrated having found gumbo spoons.

Gumbo spoons? I have a lot of pieces, mostly French and German. I have asparagus servers, yes, really! I have pieces for all kinds of exotic foods, but no. No, I did not have gumbo spoons. I had never even heard of gumbo spoons.

Gumbo spoons are a little larger than soup spoons, wider, rounder, a little deeper.

As it turns out, they don’t even make gumbo spoons in my sterling, but they had some beautiful ones that will go with my everyday flatware; these had shells on the base of the handles. They are beautiful, and I can hardly wait to eat gumbo in such grand style. These will be well loved – and well used!

February 3, 2014 Posted by | Aging, Cultural, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Shopping | | 2 Comments

Energy Use and My Friend Who Kept the Cats Warm

“I was scratching their heads and ears and noticed that they were nice and warm! I wondered how they were managing to keep so warm in the awful cold, but I was glad they found a nice warm place,” my friend said, when I asked her how her outdoor cats had fared in the bone-chilling cold we experienced in Pensacola last week.

“Then I got my Gulf Power bill, and Intlxpatr, it was over a thousand dollars!” she exclaimed, her eyes huge.

Her normal bill is probably around what I pay. Not nearly a thousand dollars, not even on the hottest month of summer when I have to keep the air on full blast 24/7 on just to survive.

“So I called the heating people,’ she continued, and they had to crawl under the house, imagine, in this weather. . . “

I imagined.

“. . . And they discovered the cats had clawed a hole in one of my air ducts and had luxuriated, down there under the house, while my heater tried to heat up half of Pensacola!”

We laughed, but a thousand dollars . . . that knocks a hole in anyone’s budget. It was one of those laughing-because-if-you-don’t-laugh-you-will-cry kinds of laughs.

I am an energy nerd. It comes from growing up in Alaska, I am convinced, where I had neighbors who fished in the summers and had to get by all year on that income, plus what they might come by with odd jobs the rest of the year. My friends had a huge garden in their back yard, and a root cellar where things were stored. In the root cellar, they had a chalkboard, where every potato, every carrot, everything they had stored was listed, and numbers subtracted as they were used. They had to keep track, to be sure they would make it through the winter.

In Pensacola, Gulf Power has a really cool feature on their website. You set up an online account, and you can check on your daily energy usage. LOL, this is mine for January. It has huge ups and downs – mostly we don’t need to have the heat on, but when the temperatures go down and stay down – it shows. There are also a couple days when we used our oven, and that shows up, too, but not badly.

I remember living in Germany, where I didn’t have a dryer (or any space for one) and my landlady brought me my energy bill. We lived in a very small farming village, where they were also all very frugal, but she couldn’t believe my bill was so small. I just smiled; I could hear her dryer going every day, and dryers are also a huge source of energy usage. Anything that heats up – or cools down – is an energy eater.

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On the website, you can also compare this year against previous years – and my bill this year is nearly a third higher than last year, but last year we did not have a three-day arctic freeze!

February 2, 2014 Posted by | Cultural, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Florida, Germany, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Weather | 2 Comments

Antique Fair Preview Party Moved to Friday Night

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January 29, 2014 Posted by | Events, ExPat Life, Pensacola, Weather | Leave a comment

God Bless Gulf Power Emergency Crews!

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“You guys OK?” our son queried.

“Have power? Have internet?” he followed up.

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Yes. Yes, thanks be to God and by the grace of the Gulf Power Emergency Crews who must have cleared that broken branch of the line, or restrung the line that fell from the weight of the ice – or whatever caused the outage.

Can’t binge watch True Detective with no cable :-( We lost electricity around 10:30 last night. It fluttered, it re-gridded, fluttered, re-gridded, they have all these work-arounds now so that it’s been a couple years since we actually lost power, but when it went down, it took everything, even the street lights. It was DARK. We got out our little hand-cranked radio/lights from LLBean that we use for hurricane emergencies, to take a look outside.

It looked like snow, but it was frozen ice. The road was a sheet of ice. No cars; for the most part there are a few people out there, but most of Pensacola is wisely staying inside. This is NOT driving weather.

It is supposed to warm later today; it has been 23°F for about 4 hours now. Our son’s internet is still down.

Last night AdventureMan made the best seafood soup EVER. It was from the January Southern Living, Gulf Seafood Stew, served with Johnny cakes and a dipping sauce – it was THE BEST.

We haven’t suffered. When the lights went out, when the heat went off, we went to bed. I didn’t even hear the electricity come back on, very early this morning, but AdventureMan did, and together we blessed those brave, hard workers who have to go out into this blistering cold and fix the lines so that the rest of us can be safe and warm in our homes.

January 29, 2014 Posted by | Community, Florida, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Weather | , | Leave a comment

Pensacola Ice Storm

Timing is everything. I had wait to get these photos until enough ice had formed to make it interesting, but before I lost what little light we had with the clouds, rain, sleet and now freezing rain.

If you are the praying kind, I ask your prayers for the homeless, those without heat, those who still have to make it home (so far the roads are OK but the bridges may start icing soon) and for these poor helpless birds seeking shelter on a night which will show them no pity.

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January 28, 2014 Posted by | Birds, ExPat Life, Florida, Gardens, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Safety, Wildlife | 6 Comments

Promises, Promises (Lies, Lies!)

West Virginia is one of the poorest – and most beautiful – of the 50 United States, green with forests and uninhabited spaces. It also has pockets of some of the poorest people in the United States. It is a state which accepts that which other states might find unacceptable. And when the chemical spill poisoned the water of thousands of people, Freedom Industries, the responsible company, declared bankruptcy.

Even today, while their water has been declared OK, people say it tastes funny, and chemists have found unacceptable traces of chemicals that other tests were not even measuring. Today, we have this report that the spill was much worse that the company originally reported.

Its sad, and it is disheartening.

In Florida, there are constant proposals for land use restrictions being lifted. The military, the companies – they all promise that this (whatever) will have no impact on the environment. Why, no one could be more environmentally responsible than (_______) fill in the blank with whatever the requestor is.

Yeh. Right.

My guess is that if the true cost of the BP oil spill in the Gulf were known, it would bankrupt BP.

Water Supply Threaten In Charleston Community Of Over 300,000 After Chemical Leak

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection issued an update on Monday evening indicating that the Elk River spill in West Virginia earlier this month involved more gallons of chemicals than previously reported.

Freedom Industries, which owned the tank that leaked into a river supplying water in the state, now says that approximately 10,000 gallons of the chemicals 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (also known as MCHM) and PPH were released. The company initially said 7,500 gallons spilled, and failed to disclose the presence of the second chemical until last week. The leak, first reported on Jan. 9, left hundreds of thousands in the capital region without access to tap water for days. Though the formal advisory on the water has been lifted, some in the region say they are still concerned about the safety of their water.

The DEP’s press release provides Freedom Industries’ newest estimate, but notes, “It is not known how much material spilled into the Elk River and shut down the drinking water supply for citizens across nine West Virginia counties.”

“We are not making any judgment about its accuracy,” DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said in a statement, referring to the company’s latest spill figure. “We felt it was important to provide to the public what the company has provided the WVDEP in writing. We are still reviewing the calculation, and this is something that will be researched further during the course of this investigation.”

“This is the first calculation that has been provided concerning the amount of materials that spilled on Jan. 9,” Huffman said. “This new calculation does not change any of our protocols in dealing with this spill, nor does it affect the ongoing remediation efforts. Our actions have never been dependent on what Freedom has reported to us. From the start, we have acted aggressively to contain the spill and remediate the site.”

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) has called for the storage facility to be torn down, and for a full remediation of the site.

January 28, 2014 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Crime, Environment, Financial Issues, Florida, Leadership, Lies, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Political Issues | , , , | Leave a comment

Kind Mothers Raise Kind Daughters

I’ve lived a lot of places, enough places to know that as women, we are more alike, no matter what our culture, than we are different. And there is one thing about women – sometimes we are our own worst enemies.

Learning to be kind was a life-long journey for me. I can spot the unkind now; they are the ones who hiss in the corners, saying mean things – usually about other women. They are the ones who will point the finger and you know that they are pointing at someone else because they are so afraid someone will look too closely at them.

I choose kind friends; they are pearls without price. (LOL, I actually wrote “pears” without price ;-) ) I look with awe on my sweet daughter-in-law who is both kind, and raising kind children. As the singer Jewell says – “in the end, only kindness matters.”

I did not write this. This is a reprint from a Huffpost News article, reprinting from the original blog, which you can see at the bottom of the article. It is a cold wintery day in Pensacola, and this story warmed my heart.

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When my daughter Ella was in fourth grade, she got in the car one day after school and announced her plan to run for student council.

At her school each class has a representative, and I was thrilled she planned to put her name in the hat. Even if she didn’t win, it would be a good experience.

She told me almost every girl in her class was running, as well as one or two boys. As kindly as possible, I mentioned the boys might have an advantage since the girl votes could be split, as that can happen in elections. I told Ella I was proud of her for putting herself out there, and that she’d make a great representative if elected.

The next day after school, Ella mentioned a dilemma she and her friend Annie had “figured out.” On Friday all candidates had to give a speech. Since our family was going to the beach Friday, Ella wouldn’t be there to give hers.

“But Annie had a great idea,” Ella said, referencing one of her best friends, who was in Ella’s class that year. “She suggested that I do a video speech, and she’ll play it for everyone.”

I was very touched by this suggestion from Annie. Why? Because Annie was running against Ella for student council. Yet instead of treating Ella like a competitor, she treated her like a friend.

Ella’s teacher agreed to the video speech, so we made it and sent it on. I didn’t think much more about the election until Friday afternoon around 3 p.m., when I was soaking up an ocean view of the Gulf Coast and received an email from Ella’s teacher. She had great news: Ella had won the election! Her classmates had voted her onto student council.

Our family hugged and congratulated Ella. I could tell by the shy smile on her face what her peers’ vote of confidence meant to her. About ten minutes later, my cell phone rang. It was Annie’s mom (one of my close friends) calling us from her cell.

“We are so thrilled about Ella!” she said, her voice joyful and triumphant. “It was the first thing Annie told me when she got in the car! She’s sooooo excited! We couldn’t be happier if it happened to her!”

The phone call didn’t surprise me, because that was typical for this family. What caught me off-guard was the timing of the call. These were 10-year-olds, after all, and 10-year-old emotions can be fragile. Their automatic instinct isn’t always happiness for a friend who got something they wanted, too. Had the tables been turned, I’m not sure the call would have happened so fast. We may have had to work through a little disappointment — if even for a minute — before focusing on our friend.

But to Annie and her mom, a victory for Annie’s best friend was a victory for Annie. A win for one was a win for both. If you ask me, that’s the perfect illustration of true friendship. It’s how it should work at every level.

All four of my girls have found friends similar to Annie. While no friendship is perfect, I’ve been surprised by some of the kindness I’ve seen at young ages. They know how to look out for a friend. They get it. And can I tell you what their kind friends all have in common? Kind mothers. Time and time again, I’ve become friends with the moms I meet through my children’s beloved friends because they’re good souls. I don’t think it’s a coincidence their children are, too.

We all want to raise kind daughters. We want them to be good friends and have good friends. While I give Annie full credit for supporting Ella — she suggested the video, after all, and was quick to celebrate her win — I know she didn’t pull that mindset out of thin air. She picked it up from her family because that’s how they think.

A win for a friend is a win for both.

Kindness among young girls doesn’t start on the playground or in the locker room — it starts at home. Most notably, it starts with kind mothers raising kind daughters. Our girls see how we treat our friends. They also notice how we treat their friends.

If we treat their friends as competitors, our daughters will, too. If we love their friends like we love our own children, they’re more likely to see them as sisters and part of the family.

Keep in mind it wasn’t just Annie cheering when Ella won student council. It was Annie’s mom, too. She was just as enthusiastic. Can I tell you what that meant to me? Can you imagine the trust that added to our relationship?

Quite honestly, I think it’s rare for both a mother and daughter to instinctively rejoice as these two did. Then again, maybe it just proves the point.

We moms rub off on our girls. Over time our way of thinking becomes their way of thinking. If we want to raise kind daughters, we need to start by being kind mothers.

This post originally appeared on KariKampakis.com.

January 28, 2014 Posted by | Character, Civility, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Parenting, Pensacola | 11 Comments

A Snowflake Might Fall in Pensacola! (0)(0)

I can’t help it, it’s just funny to me. There is a chance it might snow in Pensacola. A very cold front MIGHT come south of I-10 and blast Pensacola for two days.

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Our son texted us that our grandchildrens’ school has issued a closure for tomorrow and Wednesday, could we help. I said sure. Then he texted that he and his wife are also off. Woooo HOOOOO! It’s kind of like a hurricane warning, none of this may really even happen.

January 27, 2014 Posted by | Florida, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Weather | | Leave a comment

Driving While Incapacitated

Today we had one of those adrenalin experiences I haven’t had since leaving Kuwait. As we turned left onto a major thoroughfare, we were almost side-swiped on the left by a car turning left and driving the wrong way down the lane into which we were turning.

Fortunately, AdventureMan saw him in plenty of time, and made room. So we were behind this guy. Normally we just assume people are inattentive, or arrogant. For us, it’s not that important; just let ‘em go their way.

Today, our eyes were as wide as saucers. This same driver kept driving over into the left hand lane. At first, I thought he was going to turn, but he made no turn. AdventureMan honked, to alert him to the fact that he was in the lane where cars were coming his way, headed right into him, we thought maybe he was texting.

Then he shifted all the way over headed into the parking lane, then wove back into the oncoming traffic. Fortunately, all the traffic – and this driver – were all going relatively slowly and the oncoming traffic pulled over. Everyone could see something was not normal.

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AdventureMan spotted a police car, just behind us, and pulled over so that the police car would be directly behind this driver. The police car put on the flashers and this driver was oblivious, just continued weaving from the oncoming traffic to the parking lane, until after a very long 30 – 45 seconds, the siren sounded. It was as if the driver woke up – and maybe he did. He pulled over.

AdventureMan and I had one of those conversations where we look for the right word. This driver was more than impaired. Truly, this driver was totally incapacitated in some way. Maybe he had just come from the hospital where he had been up for several nights with his terminally ill wife, in which case he was driving-while-sleep-deprived, a condition that happens more than you would like to think. Maybe he had the flu, and his medication had knocked him for a loop? Maybe he was falling down drunk? Maybe he was on some kind of drug? Maybe he was just driving-while-oblivious, texting?

We will never know. A couple hours later, we passed along the same stretch of road and watched a tow truck haul the car away as the police watched. We hope that whoever the driver was has been hospitalized, or taken somewhere he cannot harm himself. We are also very thankful that we were behind this driver, not in front of him or coming from the other direction. It was one of life’s little adventures.

January 25, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Crime, Cultural, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Safety | Leave a comment

Chilly Pensacola Sunrise

Today is the annual homeless services day, and homeless count day when hundreds of Pensacolians leave their beds at o-dark-thirty to serve our brothers and sisters who don’t have beds to sleep in, don’t have a roof over their head, don’t always have something to eat.

The homeless love Pensacola because it in so temperate, but even the temperate climate of Pensacola can be occasionally brutal, as it is right now. The Waterfront Mission has said it will take in anyone who comes, to shelter them from the harsh mid-freezing temperatures.

It’s not like Pensacola loves the homeless. The city has passed ordinances preventing them from begging, and from soliciting at the traffic stops. On the other hand, it’s not like they are going away, so charitable organizations in Pensacola do their best to care for the homeless population, providing cold weather shelter, meals, toiletries, places to collect mail and to bathe. There is a free health clinic. There is occasional dental screening. There are veteran services, who try to house and take care of our walking wounded. There is even a service for the pets of the homeless, in case of hurricane or similar emergency.These things make me very proud of Pensacola.

This morning dawned very cold:

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AdventureMan crawled out of bed into the cold and chill, donned several layers of clothing and headed out to help with the count, and with serving around 500 people a hot meal. He does it because he loves doing it and I smile thinking how “The Lord loves a cheerful giver.”

January 23, 2014 Posted by | Charity, Civility, Community, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Pensacola, Social Issues, sunrise series, Weather | , | 2 Comments

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