Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Chinese New Year Shoes

I admit it, I am frugal. I am frugal in small ways, in daily life. I don’t like waste. I don’t need luxury. Or maybe I should say I have my own idea of luxury. We lead a comfortable life and have more than enough to delight in.

Now and then, I see something that tickles my imagination. When I do, I don’t hesitate. When I saw these shoes, I bought them to celebrate Chinese New Years, coming January 27 – 29.

 

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I found these on Amazon! They were under $20, and they have dragons on them holding the ball of the earth. What an amazing world we live in, what luxury is available at affordable prices.

January 21, 2017 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, ExPat Life, Shopping | | Leave a comment

It’s a First World Problem . . .

I grew up stockpiling.

“Winter is coming” is nothing new when you grow up in Alaska. As soon as the catalogs came in, we ordered snowsuits so they would arrive before winter. Being a child, I don’t understand exactly why everything had to be in place before winter struck, but I think it had something to do with shipping channels being unpassable.

It was good preparation for my years of life overseas. Even living in Germany in the 1960’s, there were things we brought with us – shoes, madras, chocolate chips – things we could only get in the USA. As the years went by, and we hauled huge suitcases back and forth from Germany to university and back (the airlines were so much more generous in their luggage policies then), and then, as a young wife, back and forth to our postings in Germany and the Middle East.

 

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I remember one Ramadan in Tunisia, where suddenly, there was no heavy cream. There were no eggs! I learned to buy ahead, to stockpile; it’s been a lifetime habit.

Where is this going, you are asking?

Maybe I’ve been in one place too long. Maybe I am starting to lose my fine edge, my compulsion to be prepared.

I had a group in last week, a group I entertain two or three times a year. It’s not a big deal, I write out my plans, make sure I have what I need, I execute the plan.

Part of the plan, this time, was a large tray full of lunch meats and cheeses, and little buns to make sandwiches. As I was putting out all the food, I found the perfect small crystal bowl for the mayonnaise.

But there was no mayonnaise. Not in my refrigerator. Not in my (well-stocked) pantry. No matter how much I looked, there was no mayonnaise.

I didn’t even have time to be horrified; I had people arriving. I put out mustards, and pickle relish, and butter, and a bowl of sour cream and no one asked about mayonnaise.

Later, I was telling AdventureMan how I’d been caught short. I have a pantry full of  sixteen different little jars of mustard, many jars of peanut butter and cans of tuna and tomato sauce. If there’s a remote chance I will need something, it is in my pantry. There are times I find myself shopping and thinking “Oh! I always need coffee! (or tea, or chili powder, or chutney or . . . ) and when I get it home, I discover I already have a goodly supply. I don’t NEED more.

But how could I run short of mayonnaise?

AdventureMan just grinned. “It’s a first world problem,” he said.

June 15, 2016 Posted by | Alaska, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Shopping | 4 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

Fez and On to Tangiers

We walked a thousand miles today, or so it seems, through the narrow streets of Fez. There was no going off on our own; Fez is complicated. The last time we were here, we hired a private guide who could take us through the souks and to other sites in Fez. This time, we were 40 people following a sign held up saying “Turquoise.”

I was behind an otherwise perfectly nice man who was using an i-Pad to take photos. As we went through the narrow streets with bread bakers, cookie sellers, date sellers, etc. from time to time he would stop, totally blocking traffic, and take his photo, and then start again. There were places he could step out of line and take a photo, but he evidently didn’t want to give up his place in the long narrow line. For the first fifteen or twenty times he did it, I just wanted to clobber him, then I found a way to get ahead of him and it was no longer my problem.

The leather dying souks that were so colorful and stinky were closed for remodeling! Whoda thunk it?

 

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My first shopping on the trip; a silk weaving factory, and the colors are irresistible!

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Another group dining experience, a lovely space, sort-of Moroccan food, Palais Mnebih feeds hundreds in a short time.GroupDiningFez

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And on to Tangiers, where our ship is waiting for us at the dock!

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December 28, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, Exercise, ExPat Life, Restaurant, Shopping, Travel, Values | , , , , | Leave a comment

Pantone Chooses TWO Colors-of-the-Year for 2016

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I love Rose Quartz (real rose quartz is lighter than this pink) and I love Serenity. Pantone says they are meant to be worn together. Ugh.

December 3, 2015 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, color, Marketing, Shopping | , , | 1 Comment

“Someone Puts it in a Box and Sends it To You!”

I relished having a day off from my volunteer job. A sudden cold front moved in; the daily temperatures are still in the nineties, but the early morning temperature was in the low seventies, and will be going lower. I started the day, once again, with a big smile.

There are obligations I have each morning; the expects to be fed and he has an inner timepiece that is amazingly accurate. Unfortunately, it doesn’t understand “days off” so I have to get up at my normal time to feed him, give him his medications, grab a cup of coffee and head for my scripture readings.

My computer has become increasingly buggy, but today, it won’t charge. Sure enough, there is a tiny puncture – a bite – along its slender length. Just one, but one is enough to keep my machine from charging.

It’s not the only thing. Just yesterday, I found my settings changed; the time was set for somewhere in China, the date was goofy, it was just weird.

I was headed for the nearby base, so I called my friend who has taken a spill and can’t get around and asked if she needed anything from the commissary. She didn’t sound like herself. I asked what was up, and she told me she had to have her faithful kitty of 17 years put to sleep; it was time. We both wept. I stopped by later, after grocery shopping and buying a new, tiny, svelte MacBook Air, and we wept some more. The vet had thanked her for making the decision, and said her bloodworm had shown she was in misery in so many ways. She was a great kitty. My friend said she wishes it were so easy for human beings, that we could just humanely end it, and we wept some more.

When I met up with AdventureMan, he could see I was shaken and we talked over a good Bento Box lunch at Ichiban. He, too, said he would prefer to end his life to lingering on in suffering. His plan (I laugh and tell him he doesn’t ALWAYS get his way, which comes as a huge shock to him) is that he will go first, but that if he doesn’t, he thinks he will not last long without me.

It’s probably true. We have become greatly intertwined these forty three years.

And we talked of Zakat, who has now been well, totally well, for four whole weeks. His fur is full and gorgeous, his eyes are clear, he hasn’t lost any teeth, and he plays like a kitten. We know it is the antibiotics, and that it can’t last forever, but we will celebrate as long as it does last, that there are medications and God’s mercy to allow him a sweet life off the streets – while it lasts.

And then the tedium of transferring all my data from one computer to the other.

We are caring for our grandson, now a full kindergartener, who attends a school nearby. We pick him up, we bring him home. AdventureMan takes him to parks and museums, I take him shopping and on errands. He is so much fun, and we love hearing his stories.

He came in Friday with a necklace with red hearts. “I got it from the treasure box!” he told me.

“What did you do?” I asked. “What was it that you did that you got to take something from the treasure box?”

He looked at me with his big blue eyes and his expressive face and said “I have NO idea!”

We were laughing so hard we could barely stand. The day before, he had told us that no, his mommy and daddy had not bought his backpack. He explained that they let him choose a backpack online, and click on it. “Then someone puts it in a box and sends it to you!” It was a huge surprise to him that Mommy and Daddy had indeed paid for it.

License plate seen in Pensacola:

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August 26, 2015 Posted by | Aging, Biography, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Marriage, Quality of Life Issues, Shopping, Zakat | 2 Comments

Busy Edmonds Saturday (and Mukilteo, too)

It’s a short trip, and we’ve stayed on Pensacola time, so we are up early on a Saturday morning; we know the Edmonds Pancake Haus will be open. I’ve been going there for about 20 years and it always looks the same. It’s an institution. When I lived in Edmonds, a large group of “8-o-clockers”, i.e. those who attended the 8 a.m. service at Saint Albans on Sundays would head down to the Edmonds Pancake Haus afterwards, hoping we could beat the Lutherans (or Baptists or Methodists or Presbyterians) to the coveted larger tables in the back room. There are a lot of Edmonds people up early.

The menu has undergone some renovations; prices up, a few things gone, a few added, but they always have Swedish pancakes with lingonberry sauce (sigh, yes, it is a Scandinavian thing). I think lingonberries also grow in Alaska; I can almost remember going out on a boat somewhere to pick them, but I was a kid and memory is fuzzy.

My memory of Swedish pancakes, however, is sharp, as is my appetite 🙂

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AdventureMan has his favorites, biscuit and gravy, and hash browns, and bacon, LOL. Now that we are all grown up and childless, we can do what we want. Sometimes, we even order dessert first, no, I am not kidding. Why waste calories on something healthy when you can have dessert?

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From the Pancake Haus, we head for the Edmonds Market. “It’s not a full market yet, not until June,” Mama warned, but it was actually a fairly large market, with bakeries, pizzas, many flower vendors, a few vegetable vendors, and a lot of assorted vendors – soaps, jewelry, knit goods, pictures, plants and fresh fish and frozen meats. Lots to see, lots to buy; we found a bouquet of flowers just right for Mama, to replace the Mother’s Day bouquets which have bit the dust.

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We visit for a while with Mama, then head out for a drive to Mukilteo, where we almost bought a house once. I still go visit that house from time to time, knowing it wasn’t right for me, I am glad someone bought it and is enjoying the view.

AdventureMan loves me, he suggests we eat at Ivar’s in Mukilteo. I LOVE eating at Ivar’s in Mukilteo, and by one of life’s amazing and wonderful coincidences, we are seated at my favorite table.

This is the view:

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Choosing something from all the great options at Ivar’s is hard, and just this very day, Copper River Salmon has come in.

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I’ve been yearning for something else, however, something we can’t get in Pensacola. I would call it a Pacific Northwest Bouillabaisse, and I think that is what they used to call it, but now they call it something else. AdventureMan ordered the same thing, and because it is messy (Alaska crab legs; you have to pull them apart and crack them to get the sweet crab meat out of legs and claws) they bring a large plastic bib, which I am not to proud to wear because cleaning crab is truly a messy job.

We got so into it, I didn’t take a photo, LOL, but here is the description:

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Actually, it was something a lot like that, something on the fresh menu last Saturday but not today. It was sort of like a ciopinno, something made specially for that day, I guess. It was so good, so good, we savored every morsel.

Outside the restaurant, fishermen are trying their luck at catching something as the ferry comes in and out, bringing waves of fish:

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This is what the ferry boat riders see as they arrive, a view of Ivar’s from the water side:

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And this isn’t even a holiday weekend; there are always lines for the ferries, but on weekends, especially during summer, those lines can take hours. Some people keep cars on both sides of the ferry, because you can always walk on; it is cheaper and you don’t have to wait in line.

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The sign telling you what matters at Ivar’s in Mukilteo:
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As we are leaving Mukilteo, we have a stream of historic planes coming towards us; it is part of the historic flight air show out of the Mukilteo flilght museum:

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May 24, 2015 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Community, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Seattle, Shopping | , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum and the Tonto National Forest

There is nothing so lovely as the American Southwest in the Spring. This is a glorious day, and we are on our way to an amazing park, the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum, with is a huge indoor and outdoor park and museum. It is one of the best stops on our trip.

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There is a huge parking lot, and we got there around the time it opens. We were still in the third row away, but the rows go on and on forever, and we wondered why so much parking? As we left, we understood. We had been there about three or four hours, and the parking lot was filling up fast, buses, travelers from every state and many nations, coming to this beautifully thought-through museum.

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One of the things we are picking up on is that everywhere we go, there are people our age, physically fit, volunteering. We saw this at the Benson – Rio Grande Valley Park in Texas, where I thought they were the happiest volunteers I had ever seen, and then again, at Tombstone, AZ, participating as characters in the daily dramas. People our age are living their dreams, and we met a lot of really happy people, working for various parks and volunteer agencies.

I volunteer in several areas, and one of my favorite is with the Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council. The Department of State sends delegates here to meet with counterparts in specialized areas – environment, juvenile justice, fair election processes, women entrepreneurs – it can be anything. You never know what comes next, which I love. Another part of it that I love is introducing our foreign delegates to the volunteer experience, whether it be dishing out hot meals for the homeless or packaging food for the food bank. For most, it is a new experience, and the idea of giving your time voluntarily to work to help others is a revelation. They are so often surprised at how good it feels.

This is what we are coming across again and again. At this museum, there is a volunteer passing out maps, and others selling entrance tickets. There are volunteer rangers, volunteer guides, and volunteers answering questions. They are happy, they are fit and tanned (LOL, yes, this is Arizona!) and they work for free. They are doing what they want to be doing. It is a joyful experience to find all these happy volunteers, and to benefit from their expertise. It is a joy to us; I feel so proud and humble to be a part of this kind of community.

This museum is so first rate. These are the bronze sculptures at the entry:

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Museum entrance:

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There are all kinds of walking trails, and every exhibit is also reachable by wheelchair.

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The museum cactus display is gorgeous along the wonderful walking paths:

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They have a wildlife display with all kinds of snakes and frogs. This is a poisonous frog:

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AdventureMan and I separate; he has a mission, he wants to see the Butterfly garden and what is planted there. I take a few trails, and then head for the gift shop. I also have an agenda 🙂

In the wonderful gift shop, where I found unique and really fun gifts for grandchildren, grand-nieces and grand-nephews, I also saw two of Mary Doria Russel’s books about this area, about the legendary Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp. There were also books and puzzles about bugs and desert creatures, and wonderful edibles, hot sauces, salsas, BBQ rubs. Great gifts.

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It is a wonderful visit, but even this early in the season, by noon, it is getting very warm. We decide to head on for Sedona, and because we are not so fond of big city traffic, we skirt Phoenix and stop for lunch at one of our favorite places, Whole Foods. What a treat!

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We wanted to take the scenic route to Sedona, so we went through the Tonto National Forest. At the beginning, I started laughing and said to AdventureMan, “It’s a Saguaro Forest!” Later, the Saguaros stopped, and small scrubby pines began, and then taller pines, and taller, thicker pines until we were in a truly dark forest with a lot of trees. Driving was a lot of twisting and turning on this road, and we were glad when we headed out towards Sedons.

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We knew we were getting close when we saw the beginning of the famous red rocks. This is the view from our hotel balcony:

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April 20, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Community, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Generational, Geography / Maps, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Hotels, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Shopping, Travel | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

ISIS in Mosul Unable to Sustain Economy

From AP via Kuwait Times:

 

High prices, shortages pressure IS – Black markets abound – Strict social laws bad for business

iraqBAGHDAD: Saadi Abdul-Rahman was recently forced to pull his three children out of school in the Iraqi city of Mosul, where Islamic State militants have ruled with an iron fist since June. The cost of living has soared there, and the family is barely able to make ends meet, even after putting the kids to work. “We are not able to pay for cooking gas, kerosene and food,” laments the 56-year-old retired government worker. “The situation in Mosul is miserable.”

The economy in the self-styled “caliphate” declared by the Islamic State group bridging Iraq and Syria is starting to show signs of strain. Prices of most staples have more than doubled as coalition airstrikes make it difficult for products to move in and out of militant strongholds, leading to shortages, price-gouging and the creation of black markets.

Resentment has grown among residents under the rule of the extremists, who initially won support with their ability to deliver services. In the early days of its rule, the Islamic State group subsidized food and gas prices through the wealth it accumulated from oil smuggling, extortion and ransom demands. They sold their smuggled oil at a discount – $25 to $60 a barrel for oil that normally cost $100 a barrel or more, according to analysts and government officials.

But in recent weeks, prices have soared in militant-held cities. Items like kerosene, used for heating and cooking, are in short supply, while others, such as alcohol and cigarettes, strictly banned by the group, are making a comeback at higher prices on the black market. Smoking is a punishable offense in militant-held Mosul. But at a warehouse on the outskirts of the city, cigarettes, as well as hard-to-come-by essentials like kerosene, can be found at hugely inflated prices on a black market run by the extremists. There, a pack of cigarettes sells for 30,000 dinars – the equivalent of $26 – more than double the pre-caliphate price, according to residents who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

‘Unsustainable Economy’
The militants “are developing an unsustainable economy,” said Paul Sullivan, an expert on Middle East economies at the National Defense University in Washington. “Eventually the costs of keeping the subsidies and price controls going will overpower their smuggling funds, which are also used for offensive and defensive actions. They can collect taxes, extort money, and so forth,” he said. “But that will likely not be enough in the long run to keep such an unbalanced economic system going.”

In the Syrian city of Raqqa, the extremists’ so-called capital, the breakdown of security along the border with Iraq in areas under Islamic State control has led to flourishing trade with Mosul. Trucks are also able to access the city from Turkey, allowing for a steady supply of fruit and vegetables, wheat and textiles. However, the cost of living has surged since US-led airstrikes began in September, and power and water cuts grew more frequent, residents said.

In addition, the strict social laws imposed by the group have been very bad for business, said Bari Abdelatif, an activist in the Islamic State-controlled town of al-Bab in Syria’s northern Aleppo province. But, he said, foreign fighters were bringing with them lots of hard currency, making up somewhat for the shortfall. Last month, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State group, decreed the minting of gold, silver and copper coins for the militants’ own currency the Islamic dinar – to “change the tyrannical monetary system” modelled on Western economies. But trade in most militant-held cities continues to be in Iraqi dinars and US dollars.

The start of winter has led to serious shortages of gasoline and kerosene. The official price for a liter of gas in government-controlled areas of Iraq is 450 dinars (40 cents) – but in Mosul, it sells for four times that. Two hundred-liter barrels of kerosene are now sold in Mosul for 250,000 dinars ($220), versus the official price of 30,000 dinars. In the western Iraqi city of Fallujah, under militant control for almost a year, residents have started cutting trees for firewood because kerosene is in such short supply. The city is surrounded by government troops and near-daily shelling often make parts of town too dangerous to visit.

Food and fuel prices have risen sharply as a result – a 50-kilo sack of rice costs 75,000 dinars ($65), up from 10,000 ($9) three months ago. A cylinder of cooking gas goes for 140,000 dinars ($115). That has put many staples out of reach for Abdul-Rahman and his family in Mosul, even with the additional money brought in by his sons, who left school to drive a taxi and work in a restaurant.

Decline in Business
A number of factors are driving the shortages and price hikes, according to residents in Mosul and Fallujah, the group’s biggest Iraqi strongholds. The militants have imposed a tax on vehicles entering their territory, leading to a decline in business. Deliveries are also subject to militant theft, and coalition airstrikes and military operations make many roads impassable. As a result, the trip from the Turkish border to Mosul took four hours prior to the militant takeover. Now, a delivery truck can spend as much as a week traveling the same road, and will pay a tax of as much as $300 for entry into Mosul, residents said.

According to Luay Al-Khateeb, director of the Iraqi Energy Institute and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, the population of the areas under Islamic State control in Iraq and Syria is 6.5 million to 8 million people. “They need 150,000 barrels (of crude) a day just to meet local consumption,” he said. “And that is the bare minimum to meet the demands for transportation, bakeries, power generation. That doesn’t mean they have access to such supply,” he added.

Last month, the militants shut down cell phone service in Mosul, claiming that residents were tipping off US-led airstrikes to their whereabouts. Cell signals have not been restored, causing the city to come to a virtual standstill. Workshops, factories and markets are closed and bitterness is growing among business owners. “Most money-transfer operations are done by mobile calls,” said Osama Abdul-Aziz, the owner of a money-transfer office in Mosul. “We have the option of using the Internet, but this method is very slow and sometimes the Internet does not work at all, which causes big delays to our work.” At Mohammed Abdullah’s shop in Mosul, the pile of cell phone scratch cards is growing higher by the day. “Our business and means for living are in ruins now,” he said. – AP

 

December 14, 2014 Posted by | Civility, Community, Cultural, Faith, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Shopping, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Pantone Colors for Spring 2015

See them in fashion, accessories and decorating by going to Pantone.

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December 4, 2014 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, color, Cultural, Marketing, Shopping | 2 Comments