expat

Fun Friday

Not really fun but possibly. Looking at the world through a screen door. That could be fun. Looking at the world full of snow through a screen door. Getting more fun. Funner. Wonderlandy. It is pretty driving around town seeing the trees covered with white.

A light snow fell for most of this week. Reminded me of Moscow where it snowed constantly all winter. A weird thing was that the snow in Moscow never seemed to accumulate. It took me the longest time to figure it out. Big trucks came out at night that looked like giant crabs. They had two arms in the front that scooped all the snow into a feeder and onto a conveyor belt that took it up and dumped it into another truck behind. These trucks took the snow outside the city and dumped it into the countryside so there was never snow on the streets or sidewalks. What you ended up with was mainly ice. Black ice. I fell down a lot. 

These are the trucks that push the snow into big piles so the ‘crab’ trucks can gobble it up.

So I signed up for Social Security. I guess I am ignorant but I discovered something. Once you hit your full retirement age, you can collect Social Security and work as much as you like. I always thought there was a limit to what you could earn until you were 70. But not the case. Not that I want to work but good to know. 

The orange one is back. At least the press isn’t falling all over him like they used to. I hope it stays that way. I was reading today that Biden has a whole team at the White House working on ‘managing’ all the attacks that are sure to come. Sad. 

Have a great weekend! Don’t think too much…

Armistice, Veteran, Poppy, Remembrance Day

photo of poppy field
Photo by Elina Sazonova on Pexels.com

Happy Veterans Day. Or Armistice Day. Or Remembrance Day. Or Poppy Day.

I went to a British grade school in Mexico City.  We wore a uniform.  I was 7 years old. In November of my first year, kids started showing up with red paper poppies pinned to the lapel of their blazers.  I had never heard of Poppy Day but I loved the color added to the otherwise mundane clothing.  I bought one and wore it even though I didn’t understand why. I looked forward to it every year. That splash of red.

It was the 11th month, 11th day, 11th hour when hostilities ended.   It was the end of the First World War, the war to end all wars. Poppies bloomed all across the fields where the battles were fought and lives were lost. A sea of red.

My first trip to Paris was over Armistice Day weekend. I was 16, and wandering around on my own. The city was empty. I was the only person at Napoleon’s tomb. I remember it was snowing that day.

In Washington, DC, Veteran’s day always meant Rolling Thunder. Motorcycles from all over the country converged on the Vietnam Memorial. They used to parade down to the Mall from Virginia and Maryland. You could hear them all morning. I was there for the 25th anniversary when they expected 500,000 motorcycles. It was impressive.

Dreamers

Soldiers are citizens of death’s grey land,
Drawing no dividend from time’s to-morrows. 
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.
Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win 
Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
They think of firelit homes, clean beds and wives.

I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,
And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain, 
Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,
And mocked by hopeless longing to regain 
Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,
And going to the office in the train.
by Siegfried Sassoon, Selected Poems (1968)

I voted on Tuesday. I was relieved the red wave turned into a pink drizzle.
It also got dark this week. Short Dark Days until the end of the year.

We made this yummy cake earlier this week. It is gluten free in case anybody cares.

Almond Cake

4 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
2.25 cups finely ground almonds (I use almond flour)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Separate eggs into 2 large bowls.
Beat yolks, gradually incorporating 3/4 cup sugar
Fold in the almond flour

Whisk the egg whites until foamy.
Gradually beat in 1/4 cup sugar
Continue to beat until stiff

Stir 1/3 egg whites in to almond mixture, then carefully fold in remaining egg whites in 2 batches.
Pour batter into buttered 9-inch cake pan and bake about 30 minutes.

Allow to cool.
Dust with powdered sugar.

Friday Randomness

After a week of 70 degree weather we are back to our normal 40 degrees. Everybody was over the moon about the warm sunny days. Obsessive me could only think about climate change… But apparently we had this weird weather back in the 1970’s as well. 

I received an email the other day from a former schoolmate. She was referring people to an article by Julian Fellows, the actor and writer of Downton Abbey. In the article he talks about the summer before he went to university. His aunt was living in Colombia and wanted to start a summer camp. She needed help. So his mother volunteered him and he got on an oil tanker and spent 21 days crossing the Atlantic (his father refused to pay for airfare). During the trip he decided it would be a good opportunity to re-invent himself and go from a dull boring person to a confident interesting person. He succeeded and continues to tell a humorous account of the summer. You can read the full article if you are interested.  https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/oct/03/julian-fellowes-once-upon-life

The funny part is that his aunt was the Librarian at the school I went to in Bogota, Colombia – Colegio Nueva Granada (CNG). His adventure took place in 1966, but she was still librarian in 1972 when I arrived on the scene. Two of her sons and another girl from the school helped run the camp along with Julian. The camp kept going in several iterations for years after.

I think I have mastered Wordle. I pick a random word that has at least two vowels. Next I either have to find other vowels or the most common way of placing the ones that are correct. Then I go through the alphabet to find the most likely (usually unlikely) word that fits. I have done it in three tries all week. But it is work. And I usually feel let down at the end. It is such a small non-accomplishment.

My 102 year old father tested positive for COVID this week. He says he feels fine but is bored out of his mind since he has to stay in his apartment all the time. I went to see him the day before he tested positive so now I am waiting for my results. I have no symptoms so fingers crossed.

My son arrives today for a visit. It looks like this will be on the menu.

Swiss Steak is a method of preparing meat, usually beef, by means of rolling or pounding, and then braising in a pot of stewed tomatoes, either on a stove or in an oven.   

No wonder there are hundreds of recipes for Swiss Steak. This recipe comes from my mother and I have enjoyed it for many years.

2 lbs round steak, in serving pieces
1 large onion, sliced

Brown steak dredged in flour in hot fat with onions, salt and pepper.

1 pt tinned tomatoes (1 15.5 oz can) I use crushed tomatoes
1 cup water
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp dry mustard
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice
dash pepper and paprika
Pour over meat in a skillet (covered)

Bake in 350 degrees F oven for 2 hours (or more) I have also made it in the crock pot. The meat should just fall apart. It goes well with mashed potatoes.

Enjoy!

drive empty highway lane

Friday Exploration

pexels-photo-5988878.jpeg
Photo by Łukasz Kondracki on Pexels.com

I watched a documentary this week on Prime called the Bikes of Wrath. Five young Australian guys who loved John Steinbeck’s book, The Grapes of Wrath, decided to retrace the trip. On bicycles. They started out with about $400 which was the equivalent of what the Joad family had when they set out. They traveled 2,600 miles on Route 66 from Oklahoma to California over 30 days. It doesn’t really work, though. These guys are well educated, fairly affluent and competent guys from another country. They are welcomed time and again by locals putting their best foot forward. People living in poverty hand them money and food and provide lodging and care. They are overwhelmed with generosity.  Because they are making a movie? Because they are non-threatening? Because they are white? Because they are male? I must say I did not have a very positive experience the time I got lost in Amarillo, Texas in the 70’s. Maybe times have changed….

I love the British Baking Show as much as the next person. But Mexican Week? Really? Brits making tacos? It was somewhat amusing to watch. They had no idea. Even the judges were a bit embarrassing in their ignorance. Luckily this week they were back on task.

Speaking of Brits and embarrassing moments… How about that Prime Minister? Five weeks must be some kind of record.

I spoke to a woman last week who said she is convinced our doom is imminent. Within the next 20 years. Climate change will destroy us all. Pollution, disease, financial collapse, food and water shortages. I think there is something in our brain that deflects all of that. When I was little, my mother was all over that. Fifty years ago, she worried about teeming landfills, water conservation, power shortages, and communicable diseases. I guess she was ahead of her time. Or was it because we lived in developing countries where all that existed already? I’ve read my share of science fiction. I know what is possible. Why can’t politicians have brains? Why can’t policy makers wake up?

Enough. Deflect deflect deflect.

And now for something completely different… (click for larger view)

I leave you with something sweet.

Lemon Sponge Pudding

Combine:

3/4  cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. grated lemon peel
1 1/2 Tbsp. soft butter
3 Tbsp. flour
2 egg yolks, beaten

Add:    

1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup milk
(Mixture may have curdled appearance, but no matter)

Beat:    

2 egg whites until stiff and fold into mixture.

Pour into buttered 1.5 quart casserole.

Place in pan of hot water

Bake at 325°F uncovered 40-45 min or until set (1 hr).

Serve warm or chilled.  I like it warm!

Friday Reflections

calm body of lake between mountains
Photo by Bri Schneiter on Pexels.com

Pretty cool photo, huh? Too bad I didn’t take it…

This week has been kind of up and down. The war in Europe is messing everything up. I know a guy who is actually Russian. He is related through marriage. I met him when we were living in Moscow and he was like 14 years old. His mother had just died. He had no father. His grandmother or a great aunt or somebody was looking after him. He was very sweet and eager to learn new things. I spent many days helping him with his English and with his Spanish and feeding him. He was probably one of about 5 people I missed when I left Russia. 

I got an email from him the other day. He is now a father of 3, with one who is 16 years old. He is very scared they will haul him away to war. They are all scared they will be pressed into service. He has good friends in Ukraine. He was checking to make sure they were safe and chatting with them often. What a shit show. On top of that his wife is a journalist and scared she will write the wrong thing. They are all trying to get out. One word I learned in Russian that stays with me is Kashmar — Nightmare.

Conde Nast Traveler published the “Best Travel Books of All Time, According to Authors”.   They list 89 books that were nominated by travel writers. The list is varied and interesting. I’ve only read about ten of them. One is about Isabelle Eberhardt who moved from Geneva to Algeria, converted to Islam, lived life as a man, and died at age 27. Now that has to be pretty interesting. I was glad to see a Redmond O’Hanlon book on the list. One of the funniest books I have read was his Into the Heart of Borneo

Ah, yes, hurricanes. That Ian was something else. Hurricanes and earthquakes. And floods. They happen every year but people just build back, go back, stay. I guess many don’t have a choice. 

I watched the movie Elvis last night. It was kind of a weird move. What a sad story. To be honest, I didn’t really like it that much. But I learned a couple of things about the guy that I didn’t know. I really ended up feeling sorry for him. Two songs I discovered are very relevant today. This one was written in 1968: If I can Dream. It was actually the highlight of the film. You can watch it on Youtube.

And this one was recorded by Elvis in 1969, but written by Mac Davis. Many many people have covered it since.

“In The Ghetto”

As the snow flies
On a cold and gray Chicago mornin’
A poor little baby child is born
In the ghetto

And his mama cries
‘Cause if there’s one thing that she don’t need
It’s another hungry mouth to feed
In the ghetto

People, don’t you understand
The child needs a helping hand
Or he’ll grow to be an angry young man some day
Take a look at you and me,
Are we too blind to see?
Do we simply turn our heads and look the other way?

Well, the world turns
And a hungry little boy with a runny nose
Plays in the street as the cold wind blows
In the ghetto

And his hunger burns
So he starts to roam the streets at night
And he learns how to steal, and he learns how to fight
In the ghetto

Then one night in desperation
The young man breaks away
He buys a gun,
Steals a car,
Tries to run,
But he don’t get far
And his mama cries

As a crowd gathers ’round an angry young man
Face down on the street with a gun in his hand
In the ghetto

And as her young man dies,
On a cold and gray Chicago mornin’,
Another little baby child is born
In the ghetto

And his mama cries 

Try to have a super weekend!

fitz roy and laguna de los tres

Friday Thoughts

mount fitz roy in patagonia
Mount FitzRoy (Photo by Gaspar Massidda on Pexels.com)

Climate and the Land

Yvon Chouinard, rock climber and founder of the brand Patagonia, announced he has given away his company, worth about $3 billion. He gave it to a non-profit called Holdfast Collective that will ensure all profits (about $100 million per year) are used to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land. Patagonia will continue to exist but Chouinard will no longer own it. Patagonia has given $50 million to Holdfast Collective and plans to give $100 million more this year.

Chouinard’s best friend was Doug Tompkins. They used to go rock climbing and adventuring together and in 1968, they drove from Southern California to Patagonia together to climb Mt FitzRoy on the Chile/Argentina border. They made a film about it called Mountain of Storms.

A later film (2010) recreates their journey and highlights some of the conservation work Tompkins was doing — 180 Degrees South: Conquerors of the Useless.

Tompkins died in 2015. He was the founder of the North Face and then of Esprit. He sold them both and in 1991, he established the Foundation for Deep Ecology. He had always loved spending time in Chile and he eventually moved there and bought a rundown farm. He spent his time climbing and kayaking and considering how he might preserve the area. Over time he bought up land in Patagonia that was still wild and undeveloped. When he died he left over a million acres of land to the Chilean government to create a national park. In 2017, the president of Chile accepted the one million acres and added another 10 million to create the largest protected area in South America.

After watching these documentaries, I became enthralled with Chile. It is definitely on my list and I hope to be able to spend some time there exploring its many diverse landscapes.

By the way, Mount FitzRoy was named after the Captain Robert FitzRoy of the Beagle, Charles Darwin’s ship.

The Queen’s Queue

Not only is Queen Elizabeth II lying in state for close to a week, but there is a “queue tracker” where you can keep tabs on the long line winding its way across London. Last time I checked the wait was 9 hours but this changes constantly. People seem happy to do it. I might even do it if I was in London. After all, it’s a one-time thing (click on image it see it live).

A few parting shots

Happy Friday.

Exploring Scotland

Edinburgh 1980

I am currently planning a trip to Eastern Scotland. It reminds me of the time I went backpacking in Scotland 40 years ago. I’m sure much has changed and my experience will be different. Here is a look back.

My cousin was studying in London that summer and I managed to talk her brother into going to Scotland with me. I flew in and spent a couple of days with her before her brother arrived. We didn’t really have a plan but just jumped on the next train to Edinburgh. Across from us was a family from Santa Barbara, California. The wife was British but hadn’t been back to the U.K. in 17 years. The man seemed bored to death and kept wanting to talk but didn’t have much to say. He was a carpenter. The guy sitting next to me was from the San Fernando Valley and very serious, no personality or sense of humor. Toward the end of the trip we got lucky and a Scotsman sat down across from me. When he found that we really didn’t know where we were going he started hauling out maps and planned an entire trip for us in the western islands. He told us about good places to go and it was great!  He was a really nice guy. Half the fun of travel is the people you meet.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness

From Edinburgh we took the train to Inverness. We couldn’t get into the youth hostel so we ended up in a bed and breakfast. The owner served us tea between 9:30 and 10 pm so we met the other person who was staying there, too. He was a teacher from Hong Kong. He spent his days taking organized tours. The following day we took the bus to Drumnadrochit and walked from there to Urquhart Castle right on the Loch Ness. There wasn’t much left of the castle because it was blown up to keep the Jacobites from staying there (long story). I did not see the Loch Ness monster. Big disappointment (haha).

Back in Inverness, we went to the Old Market Inn Pub and had a few beers. One drunk Scotsman sort of latched on to us. He mainly just wanted to talk – anybody would have done but we were willing to listen. He was interesting for a while giving us some Scottish history and his very strong opinions. After a while somebody got up with a guitar and started singing folk music, which we quite enjoyed.

From Inverness, we took the bus through the mountains past glass still lakes and beautiful forests to Fort William. The youth hostel was at the foot of the highest mountain in the U.K., Ben Nevis (4,400 ft.). A New Zealander latched onto us at the youth hostel, which was a good thing because he had dishes and silverware. We were totally unprepared. I think he was homesick. We ended up taking him into town and waving goodbye at the bus station like he was our son going off to war. Poor guy. We spent a couple of days relaxing and soaking up the beautiful countryside before heading out to the west coast.

Iona Abbey

We were lucky, it rained very little that summer. The only problem we had was on the Isle of Skye. The public transport was rather meager so we were trying to hitchhike but got nowhere and, of course, it started to rain and we got soaked. Back on the mainland, we worked our way down the west coast. We spent several days in Oban and took ferries to Mull and Iona. And finally found our way to Glasgow. I fell in love with Scotland and decided I wanted to go back and tour the upper peninsula on a motorcycle …actually on the back of a motorcycle.

Downtown Chester

On the way back to London, we stopped in the old Roman town of Chester on the Welsh border, and at Stonehenge and Salisbury. It was market day in Salisbury and there were people everywhere, crowding the streets, too many people. I was tired by then. Youth hostels are cheap but you don’t get much sleep. The woman above me had snored all night. Still, I was able to enjoy Salisbury Cathedral, finished in 1258 and an impressive Gothic building. We listened to the music at evensong. By that time, I was exhausted.

We took the boat from Great Yarmouth to the Hook of Holland and a train on to The Hague, the Netherlands. We got off at the wrong station and had to walk forever but finally managed to hook up with my parents and ended up staying in their new, empty apartment.

(excerpt from Expat Alien my global adventures)

This time the plan is to go to Dundee and Aberdeen. Any tips?

Random Friday Thoughts

It’s Friday. Another week slipped by. I found a website that is unfortunately no longer active but it is still accessible. It is called TCK Town Magazine. It has five years’ worth of TCK stories. They are well written and engaging.  And if you are a TCK you will definitely relate. 

It is hard for me to think about being in the middle of a draught when I am surrounded by 10,000 plus lakes but there you have it. We have been in a draught. And now it has rained twice this week. Everybody is very happy. I’m happy because it has cooled down a lot. 

I came across a book called The New Russian Poets 1953-68. My house is full of such things. I usually ignore them but I saw this one and I didn’t ever remember seeing it before so I picked it up just to take a look. I actually found a poem I liked by Yevgeny Vinokurov: 

And In A World 

And in a world, where all is frontier, 
All merely boundary and barrier, 
You are, fathomless infinity, 
At least a consolation. 
…There’s a gleam of blue that shines 
Through a crack in the barn wall – 
Here already is your witness: that 
Not everything is so plain and flat. 

Sitting next to it on the shelf was The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. I had never seen it before either. It looks like something I would enjoy. I’m going to put it aside for a read later. 

Shifting gears… I recently came across a postcard of a tour my family took in Tokyo. My brother told me we were in Tokyo twice and took tours each time. I dug around and found some more Tokyo photos. It is clear we were different ages. He also gave me a pin he had that the tour group gave out. I looked up the JTB company and it is still going strong.

This first group must have been from 1959.

These two photos are from 1962. You can see that it says “Pigeon Bus Tours”. Hato is “pigeon” in Japanese and stands for peace. These bus tours started in 1949, and have been very successful showing close to a million tourists around each year.

Happy Friday.

Nicollet Island Inn

The Island Sash & Door Company was constructed on Nicollet Island in 1893. Nicollet Island sits in the middle of the Mississippi river between the east and west banks of downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Island Sash & Door Company continued its operations until 1899.

Minneapolis’ flour and grain milling industry flourished at the beginning of the 20th century and the building that was the Island Sash & Door Company became headquarters to several milling companies. Then from 1913, to about 1973 it was a men’s shelter started up by the Salvation Army. The building and much of the land on Nicollet Island was sold to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation District in the late 1970’s. From there, the structure became the Nicollet Island Inn.

Architecturally it has gone through several transformations with the interior consisting of timber and beam construction and windows presenting beautiful views. The bar with original stained glass is over 150 years old and originally belonged to a drugstore in a small New Hampshire town.

Today Nicollet Island Inn is a small romantic hotel with an excellent restaurant including an intimate bar and patio seating. They serve a good Sunday Brunch with mimosas and excellent Bloody Marys.

The Trials of Air Travel

I have been reading lately about all the airline travel problems people are having. Long delays, cancellations, missed events, long lines. It looks pretty bad, but then I read an article today that compared what was happening now to pre-pandemic numbers and they aren’t far off. There have always been travel uncertainties. I was looking through some old writing of mine and found this from 1997. I was living in Moscow, Russia at the time. My two year old child and I were on home leave in Minnesota and we were flying back to Moscow via Amsterdam. Noah is my son, Nicholas my husband who was in Moscow.

“So we got on the plane and at first they said they had to offload some luggage and it would be about 15 minutes. Then they said they couldn’t start one of the engines automatically so they would have to try it manually. Then it didn’t work manually so they would have to fix that. They never knew for sure what the problem was or how long it would take. Noah fell asleep about an hour into it and slept until we got into the air. After they they fixed the engine, the computer program had to be re-entered with the new times so that took a bit longer and then finally we were off, three hours late.

Noah finally fell asleep about an hour before we landed in Amsterdam. I guess I have blocked it out because I don’t remember most of it or how I entertained him but we survived somehow and when we got off, a woman across the aisle said that my child was such a good traveler!! I didn’t know how to respond to that.

Our connecting flight was just leaving when we arrived in Amsterdam so I went to the transit desk and they told me they would have to put me on the next flight out which was the Aeroflot at 12:45 pm. I said I didn’t want to fly Aeroflot and she said she understood completely and I should go talk to the people at the ticket counter. So I went there and they told me that all the flights to Moscow that day eventually connected to Aeroflot so if I wanted to go that day, I didn’t have a choice. They told me I could refuse to go and I assume they would have put me up for the night but then I didn’t know what would happen to my luggage so I decided to just go. the 12:45 flight was fully booked in Tourist Class so they put us in Business Class and as the KLM guy was giving me my ticket he said – Well, at least it is Business Class, whatever that means…. I said I would find out. They also gave me a free three minute phone call to Moscow so I let Nicholas know when to meet us.

There was a couple with two small children also waiting for the flight to Moscow and I found out they had been on my flight out of Minneapolis. It turns out that they were just moving to Moscow and it was their first time. I thought, what an introduction for her… She won’t forget this trip for a while. I gave her my phone number and she promised to call me. The world is small.

Well, Business Class on Aeroflot is a real treat. The only difference between it and Tourist Class is that there is leg room and you get to use the First Class toilet. Tourist Class has six seats across with no leg room, Business Class has six seats across with leg room, and First Class has four seats across with leg room. All the seats are the same size. Noah slept the whole way and I slept through most of it so can’t comment on the service except the beverage choices were Sprite, Coke or mineral water. The landing reminded me of the UTA pilots in Africa. We would dive, then go up, then drop, then dive again. Noah thought it was great fun.

After we landed and arrived at the gate the announcement was made that in fairness to everybody the Tourist Class passengers would exit first and the Business Class and First Class people would remain in their seats until everybody else had exited. We sat there and watched as all the people in Tourist Class filed past us. Unbelievable.

Luckily my bags showed up right away and Nicholas was there waiting.”

I have survived many such sagas. Some worse than others. But it hasn’t stopped me so far…