Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Friday Night Special: Mushroom Soup Forestiere

Mushroom Soup

Who knew, this late in life, that AdventureMan would develop this new talent? This week he had a bug in his brain; he had loved making the steak with mushroom sauce last Saturday night and now he wanted to make a very French/German version of mushroom soup, sort of a Forestiere, so he researched recipes, watched a few YouTube videos and created a brandy-laced soup that totally knocked my socks off.

At Fresh Market, his favorite market in Pensacola, he found the special mushrooms, and a crusty loaf of French bread, a mild goat cheese and a Country Pate by Les Trois Petits Couchons, established 1975 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

He was so busy all those years managing, commanding, strategizing, traveling, and I did all the cooking. I did fine – I have a few good recipes, and we moved so often that I could just use them again at the next post. Most of what I did was survival cooking, i.e. I had an obligation to get a meal on the table three times a day, and it had to be something my husband and son would eat. I did fine, but it wasn’t exquisite, and there was only dessert when we were having guests.

AdventureMan takes cooking to a whole ‘nother level. He loves taking his time, scouting out the special ingredients, even growing the herbs to garnish the platters. For him, this is a lot of fun. For me, I think I’ve died and gone to heaven.

October 1, 2021 Posted by | Aging, Cooking, Cultural, Family Issues, Food, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues | 1 Comment

Leaving Bozeman, Day 14

AdventureMan hates my phone alarm, which is a tune called “Twinkle.” He always says it reminds him of hotel mornings when we have to get up at what he calls “The Cr#p of Dawn.” This was one of those mornings, we need to be up, get to the airport, turn in the car, check in two hours in advance, etc. 

Don’t you love this Mama Bear’s big claws?

It all goes smoothly. We drop our keys in the drop box, still a little nervous that we never received a contract for the upgraded vehicle. By the time we reached Dallas, I had a confirmation of the car rental return and a copy of the contract. Go figure.

The airline people were not at the airport two hours before the flight. Oh well. We checked in and had time for breakfast at the Copper Horse before boarding for our flight. In Dallas, we found a BBQ take-out and ate in the waiting room. 

We arrived safely back in Pensacola, on time, and there were zero taxis and about six sets of people in front of us. We never do this, but we called our son and asked if he would pick us up. He arrived, fully masked, welcomed us back, and drove us home. That night, he texted that he and our grandson both tested positive for COVID and the family would be quarantined, They live just blocks from us, so we were able to see them, to bring groceries or whatever they might need. They were tired and achey, but never got very very sick. 

I just took a break; AdventureMan asked me how the trip report was coming and I said I was finishing up and I was astonished at how much COVID had been an influence on this trip. From the start, when Viking cancelled our planned cruise in May, to the end, with hotels and restaurants struggling to find staffing, COVID had played a major role. We need to be paying attention. Things are changing. We are going to need to do things differently. We need to start figuring out those strategies now.

September 16, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Climate Change, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Safety, Travel, Wildlife | , | Leave a comment

Discovering My Neighborhood

We have a renovation coming up which will require that we relocate for ten days to two weeks while the workers are completing a project we have long awaited. It’s not that easy these days to schedule projects; we ordered our new windows in March and they were installed in July! It’s a supply chain issue, a demand issue and a finding people to do the job issue. We are so happy; the company we wanted made the best proposal, we accepted immediately and scheduled. Our timeframe is months out, but we are on the schedule and we can live with that.

Hoping to find someplace nearby where we could stay, my first choice was the beach. On VRBO, where I found an amazing mansion on Napoleon Street in New Orleans, steps away from Magazine street, I found the perfect place at Portofino, at really great price. When I showed it to AdventureMan, he looked sad. He said of course, if I really wanted to do that, we could but it also meant battling two bridges twice a day to come back home to feed and take care of the cats. Oh. Yeh.

Floor plan for Portofino Condo
View from Master BR

Can you see why this would grab my heart? I could see myself sitting on the balcony, sipping my coffee, maybe even watching the Blue Angels fly by on a Tuesday morning practice. Ahhhhhh . . . . . And did I mention, the price was right?

So I started researching places near us where cat-care would be easy, and, sigh, yes, AdventurMan you were right, we can keep an eye on the work going on, too.

I was astonished at the quantity and quality of short-term rentals available in our neighborhood. Smart young people are buying up properties, even very small properties, fixing them up and maintaining them as Airbnb or VRBO rentals.

The first two I looked at were little cabins on the Bayou – darling places, but for the length of time we needed, maybe a little too small. The first one advertises on VRBO at $54/night.

This next one is also VRBO, on the Bayou, and starting at $67 per night:

I’m a sucker for a photo like this

These both look immaculate, and so new you can almost smell the fresh paint.

Then I started looking at airbnb. My daughter-in-law has had great luck with them, and they seem to have more variety in our neighborhood.

This house has beautiful spaces at $159/night.

This house has a beautiful location and lots of space at $210/night.

This rental was only $93/night, and allowed pets, but not on the furniture.

This one has a lovely location at $125/night.

Privacy. Convenience. Space. These are great options for people like us who just need a temporary place, and also for travelers seeking less of a tourist experience and more of a real life neighborhood experience.

August 15, 2021 Posted by | Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Hotels, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | Leave a comment

“Keep it Superficial!”

AdventureMan grinned as he said it. He had just asked how we were doing, to which I replied “Fine!” We are both focused on projects that need doing but are neither stimulating nor particularly gratifying.

Have you ever noticed how long you can think about something, and then when you do it, it takes mere minutes, and you realize you’ve invested a lot of thought when you could have just done it and then not given it another thought?

When we bought this house, my thoughtful daughter-in-law left me paint cans for some of the rooms. In one bath, there was a line at the bottom of a wall that needed re-painting. It was such a tiny line, but it caught my eye every time I saw it and I resolved to fix it. And then I didn’t fix it.

So this morning, I found the right tiny paint brush, found the right piece of cardboard to shield where I don’t want the paint to go, gathered a little newspaper and moved some paint from the larger can to a smaller bottle. That took about as much time – maybe five minutes – as it took to also paint in the area that bothered me, and paint over places where time has bruised or nicked the paint, since I was working with that paint anyway. Total time – maybe ten minutes, maybe fifteen. A drop in the bucket, given all the times I had thought of doing it and didn’t do it.

There are things I just don’t really want to do, and it is so easy not to do them. AdventureMan is changing the cat litter; who ever WANTS to change cat litter? The joke in our house is that when I got pregnant, many years ago, I showed AdventureMan an article about some terrible thing that can happen if pregnant women handle cat litter, and it was around thirty years later when he asked me when I thought I might be able to scoop litter again.

While I am all about equality, there are some times when dividing up the labor makes sense to both of us. And then, there are tasks that you just do because they need doing. When he asks how I am doing, he doesn’t need to really know how I feel about painting a small line, and I don’t need to know his thoughts about the cat litter. it’s shorthand for “I love you; I care about you.” A “fine” will do.

June 10, 2021 Posted by | Aging, Character, Civility, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

MomFest in New Orleans

Didn’t we just have a fest in New Orleans? On Saturday, AdventureMan and I were having chargrilled oysters at The Original Oyster House, our favorite seafood place along the Spanish Fort causeway going into Mobile.

As usual, we were having a discussion about words. I had decided that Saturday would be the beginning of Mother’s Day, and as we were meeting up with our son on Sunday, and heading to New Orleans for Monday and Tuesday, it would end up being a four day celebration. AdventureMan wondered what a four day celebration would be called. I suggested a four day weekend, and he said, no, MomQuad. I didn’t like the sound of that, so I announced, definitively, that we would call it the MomFest, which had a less legalistic and more celebratory flavor.

Sunday, too, was lovely, having time with our son where we could hear about his life and his adventures in prosecution. His accused was very sure he would not be convicted – “If they have no face, they have no case!” but our son, by his careful and painstaking work, proved him very wrong.

And Monday we headed to New Orleans, hitting the road around 0830 for an anticipated 1130 arrival.

Oops. Not so fast. Just out of Mobile we ran into massive thunderclouds and shocking bolts of lightning, and torrents of rain rushing up from the gigantic wheels of the trucks who drove hell-bent-for-leather to get their cargos in on time in spite of the weather.

The storm was easing up as we crossed the causeway into New Orleans, and by the time we got to Magazine Street, it had stopped raining and the sun began to peep out.

We love the variety available on Magazine street, and we haven’t had Ethiopian food for weeks :-).

Yes! Cafe Abyssinia, here we come again, a family tradition when we hit New Orleans just in time for lunch. Our waiter this time was delightful, a man from Chicago, related to the restaurant owner, who has actually been back to visit family in Ethiopia. He had great stories to tell about his family there, how they love hearing about America, and how they made him feel so welcome, and a part of a much bigger family.

Samson at Cafe Abyssinia

Then on to Zito’s and to Enrique’s to pick up items we had left to be fixed, polished or mended. Always a good reason to come back. We had a good visit, then headed to Creole Creamery on our way to The Parkview. Usually when it comes to ice cream flavors, AdventureMan and I go our separate ways, maybe sharing small bites with one another, but this time we both landed on the same flavor: Bittersweet Chocolate Torte. It was divine. We had to eat it sitting out in our car, as no one is allowed to sit inside and even the numbers who can come in are limited, but we were lucky. When we went back the next day, there was a long line of people outside, waiting for their turn to go inside.

I did look at VRBO for this trip, but it’s just an overnight, and oh, we love The Parkview. We love the parking, we love the park, we love the proximity to the zoo, and we love that you can catch the streetcar going in either direction just outside the front door, on St. Charles.

We had a different room this time, and I didn’t think I was going to love it, but we did. It was on the main floor, near check in and the breakfast room, but because of COVID, and in spite of the fact the hotel was fully booked, it was not noisy, the bed was huge with a good mattress and linens, and we had plenty of space.

So this was our bed. AdventureMan noticed it had a face on it, which after he described where it was, I could see it. But I also saw a heart, which he did not, and another stylized face high above, on the crown over the bed.

Can you see the face? The heart?
This is the face I saw on the top of the bed

We had dinner again at Superior Seafoods; we split the grilled oysters, each had a salad, and AdventureMan had grilled shrimp, while once again, I exercised poor judgement and had the rich and satisfying BBQ Shrimp. We had a 45 minute wait to get in – New Orleans high schools, Loyola and Tulane are having graduations, and the place is a madhouse – but we had a delightful conversation with a young couple, she was just finishing graduate school and the two of them were on a quest to eat as many oysters as possible before leaving New Orleans for Nashville.

When I say I exercised bad judgement, it is not a reflection on the food. The food was marvelous. I am diabetic and I have no reason on earth to eat injera (Ethiopian pancake-bread) for lunch, really creamy ice cream at midday, and grilled buttery oysters and buttery BBQ shrimp for dinner. It was very foolish of me. Oh well, every now and then I allow myself a little bad judgement.

When we hit the road the next morning, the heavens opened and torrents of rain followed bolts of lightning. Traffic was a little lighter heading east. Our sweet and caring daughter-in-law texted us to fill our tanks before leaving Mississippi, as on top of the pipeline hack for ransom, a major Pensacola gas distributor had failed an EPA requirement and many Pensacola gas stations were dry. Even as far back as Biloxi, gas stations had cars lined up. We did manage to fill the tank, and we turned off the air conditioning for the rest of the drive. The situation seems to be easing in Pensacola, but there is such a fear of a gas shortage that people are panic buying.

So today’s conversation was the difference between a buccaneer and a pirate. Do you know the difference? For a fascinating glimpse into early American history, you can read this lengthy and clear explanation here.

May 13, 2021 Posted by | Chocolate, Cultural, Eating Out, Health Issues, Hotels, New Orleans, Pensacola, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Plenty of Sunshine Heading our Way”

We’ve been having Seattle weather – weeks of cold, dreary, cloudy days and heavy fog some mornings causing bad accidents. We are ready for some Spring. And it’s coming, starting today:

Plenty of sunshine heading our way!

The original Disney version of this song

March 3, 2021 Posted by | Cultural, Heritage, Living Conditions, Music, Pensacola, Weather | Leave a comment

“Can’t I Buy You a Diamond?”

“No,” I replied. “How about we buy another house?”

So we did. It’s the house we are living in now, the house we bought, we sold, and we bought back again, and, God willing, I will never move again.

It always cracks him up that I don’t want a diamond. He says it would be cheaper to buy me a big diamond. He is right, but houses are better long term investments.

We had a great division of labor. AdventureMan worked hard, and his career took us to exotic locations, locations we both loved and found intellectually stimulating and challenging to our assumptions. He always chose his jobs in consultation with me.

I handled logistics and finances. I moved us, I packed and unpacked (AdventureMan handled movers on moving days) and I recommended investments, on which we decided together. Until we closed on this house, AdventureMan had never been through the closing process (the first time we had to place a call to the Red Cross in Germany, all planned in advance, who would verify that my husband was alive and well and standing in front of them) so that I could sign the papers with a power of attorney.

So no, diamonds are of no interest to me. I quilt, I cook, I garden, I do upholstery, I strung electrical wires – I work with my hands. When we travel, if I see some little earrings I can’t resist, real gold or real gemstones, we might buy them and they show up in my stocking at Christmas. I am content.

Oh yeh, and I like to buy houses.

AdventureMan knows me well. Last night he looked me deep in the eyes and said “With the pool closed this week, I know you’ll miss the exercise. I am willing to get up as early as eight to walk with you.”

That is a true sacrifice. AdventureMan loves his sleep, and he has earned every moment of it. I have a need to front load my day; I am an early riser and like to get it done. I don’t begrudge his sleeping in after all his years in the military rising at what he called “the crap of dawn,” and I fully appreciate his willingness to get up early and walk with me.

I love walking. This neighborhood is a great neighborhood for walking; the area between the two major thoroughfares are quiet and peaceful. Most of the houses are family owned, people are friendly, and where there are rentals, they are mostly to families with young children who want to be in this particular school district.

We are sort of looking for our next house. No, we are not going to move, but I think this is a really good neighborhood to own a small rental house. We’ve learned how important it is to have a good property manager; we wouldn’t manage it ourselves. I’m looking for something small, something we can clean up and modernize and rent out. I’m not in a hurry; we have enough going on right now with the updates on our current home, but we are who we are – we are people who need projects, who thrive facing a challenge, we are good problem solvers. And I like to have diversity in our investments.

AdventureMan is fully on board. With investments, I am the cautious one, he is more of a risk taker. Together, we do pretty well.

March 1, 2021 Posted by | Aging, Building, Cultural, Exercise, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Fitness / FitBit, Living Conditions, Marriage, Money Management, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships | Leave a comment

Pensacola: Florida Man

Today, as we were en route to pick up lunch, we were stopped at a stop light. We had been stopped there for about 45 seconds, the light was very red.

Suddenly, on our left, an SUV came rushing up and without even slowing down, much less stopping, he blasted through that very red light.

I’ve given up cursing for Lent. In the surprise and the shock of the adrenalin jolt, out popped “WTF??”

There is a character in Florida so common that he has his own meme: Florida Man. Florida Man Runs Naked Down the Interstate. Florida Man Kills Stranger With a Hammer While High on Meth. Florida Man Hit Man on Highway and Calls it In as a Deer. Oops, not that one, wrong state. But you get the picture. Generally, Florida Man thinks the rules don’t apply to him.

I had a run-in with Florida Man once, when we lived in the Tampa/St. Pete area, except Florida Man was a woman who was really PO’d with me when our two lines of cars were zippering to get on the interstate and when I zippered, even though she was honking at me in her big truck, she got infuriated that I didn’t defer, and she chased me up the highway, trying to cut me off, coming really close to hitting me. I left the highway rather than take a chance with a lunatic who was also likely carrying a gun.

Even for Florida Man, running a very very red red light at high speed without even slowing down is exceptional. And then, maybe 10 seconds later, a large Pensacola police SUV with lights and siren rolling, went zooming through the same red light, followed by another PPD vehicle.

This was worth a good ten minutes of discussion. We don’t think the police caught him (or her) as the car was going SO fast, and changing into the left lane, I am guessing the driver, just out of sight, turned left and evaded a confrontation.

AdventureMan observed that evading the police these days is a very temporary thing; clearly they were chasing this car even before he zoomed through the red light. They know the car, they’ve probably run the license, at the very least they have him on film. Two cars were chasing him; running the red light was probably just icing on the cake. So we are running the probabilities; I am saying if I know I am guilty of something, probably something serious, and the police are about to arrest me, running a red light might be a percentage play if it keeps me free another hour or day or month or two. Maybe it’s worth the risk to run that light, and likely this is not a person who is giving a lot of thought to the welfare of others.

How fragile life is. On a quiet, calm Sunday, just making a quick trip to pick up some take-out, anything can happen.

February 28, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Crime, Cultural, Florida, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Random Musings, Stranger in a Strange Land | Leave a comment

Silver Linings

It’s been a funny week. We were supposed to have a new roof put on, but the ongoing rainy weather put the roofing company behind. And when the roofing materials were delivered, there was some drama and some damage, and now we are waiting for replacement pieces and sunny weather and roofers.

I went in to my Dermatologist, a young woman I adore, and she found a couple places that she wanted to hit with the liquid nitrogen “just to be sure.” She had hit one of the places, on my face, before, and nothing happened, so I wasn’t concerned. This time, I felt the impact immediately, and within a half an hour had a dramatic big red spot, reminding me of being a teenager, when you think EVERYONE sees that pimple you can’t hide.

So here is where the silver lining comes in:

In this time of COVID, even here in a very non-compliant part of Florida, the majority of people are masked up, and my mask covers my big boo boo.

Just kidding, this photo is from a time when my niece and I were goofing around talking about how funny life is, and how the niqab (Islamic face covering) has become a necessity, as we protect one another from the contagion of COVID. She did some amazing things with eye make-up, which is what our Moslem friends do.

So today, as I skipped my morning swim and headed for the commissary, I was thankful to be masked. I also am thankful that the pool will be closed the entire week next week, so the one place where I really cannot wear a mask will not even be an issue. I can’t go there. Normally, I would feel bad about missing my swim time, but this week, it will be a good thing.

The silver lining gets better. I also have my second COVID vaccination next week, so I don’t have to worry about trying to be all heroic, trying to overcome how bad I might feel. I have the week off! I can feel as bad as I feel, or feel not bad at all.

I have some brand new shoes, and I love them, they are a Loden green and match the little hooded dress I wore, and – they have heels. I used to wear heels all the time, and then I went to sandals, mostly because I lived in really hot countries. So these shoes fit perfectly, and they are wonderful to walk in; it’s a great day to break in a new pair of shoes. On the way home, my left knee hurts a little and I remember, I also gave up heels because they threw my posture off and first it was my knees and then my hip . . .

They are lovely shoes, and I think I will wear them judiciously. Like to church, or a dinner, or someplace else where a lot of walking will not be required. I’d forgotten how good it feels not to have pain in my knees or hips!

AdventureMan and I used to have lunch out every day; he called it our daily-date, and as we sat in our kitchen today, eating take-out from Tijuana Flats, he looked at me and said “I don’t think we’ll ever go back to eating in restaurants that much, do you?” and I agreed that no, take-out was so easy. We have learned to enjoy it, and it certainly saves a lot of time. If it is cheaper, it is not so much, we still pay for the food, and we tip, we know servers are having a tough time these days, and we’ve always considered tipping to be a karma kind of thing, a cosmic kind of income-redistribution.

Pensacola was hit hard this year, by COVID, by Hurricane Sally, by heavy unnamed storms that have left a trail of blue tarped roofs littering the landscape. Rich and poor alike were hit. I am watching now to see what silver linings will come out of all this disruption and hardship?

February 26, 2021 Posted by | Aging, Civility, Cultural, Exercise, Family Issues, Health Issues, Humor, Hurricanes, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings, Values, Weather, YMCA | Leave a comment

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