Sunday, December 12, 2010


Come and see me at my new site!

Changes Ahead

There may be some changes coming up and some disruption to blogging ahead.  I am having issues with Blogger.  Well with Google and Turkey. 

Google doesn’t pay taxes in Turkey and so the government has internally blocked some of Google’s ISPs.  This means at the moment, my friends and readers in Turkey are unable to access my blog.  I am looking to move over the site to another provider but it might take a bit of time and research.  Hopefully this will be resolved soon.  Please let me know if you have any suggestions.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Allergic Catastrophe

Oh Thanksgiving!  We celebrated it on Saturday because in Turkey we don’t get the day off. (It is an American holiday after all.) We had a fantastic holiday except for the fact I thought I was going to pass out from pain starting at 4 am Saturday morning.  It was extremely fortuitous that I had prepared the majority of the food before Saturday because otherwise I would have had to cancel.  Cooking a large dinner for 16 people while you are fighting the urge to throw up from the pain is less than ideal. 

In case I have not mentioned it before, I am allergic to walnuts and hazelnuts.  My reactions have become stronger and more severe since I moved to Turkey and have had more accidental ingestions.  Allergies are not understood the same way here as they are in the US because people here rarely have allergies. 

For example, last year someone in my husband’s family, at whose home we had eaten very regularly, cooked with hazelnut oil in the food for six months.  They knew I was allergic and would even make me special desserts when the recipes called for hazelnut or walnuts.  I was incredibly ill for those six months and had to be hospitalized.  I thought my IBS had transformed into colitis.  I only found out my nut allergy triggers colitis when I saw them use the oil from a labeled can and they admitted they had been cooking with the oil since I moved to the country.  It turned out I do not have a chronic illness, and as soon as the oil was out of my system, I was absolutely fine.  

Friday night, I was at a banquet dinner for work and apparently they used nut oil in one of the sauces.  Cue incredible gastro-intestinal pain.  It started Saturday and continued into Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and subsided Wednesday evening.  Whew!   Yesterday I was able to discontinue the exclusive kefir and low-fat yogurt diet and eat some rice. 

While I feel lucky that my allergic reaction is not life threatening, it does affect my quality of life, as I was ill and miserable for at least five days.  After the original illness it does take another few days for my system to go back to normal.  It has been a full week as of today and I am fine as long as I eat lightly, and only low fat, easy to digest food. 

I am pretty vigilant about food when I eat out and cannot control the ingredients myself.  I have not actually had an accidental exposure to nuts since the original incident one a year ago.  As a saftey precaution I do not think I will be attending large banquet dinners where I cannot control my food choices or talk to the chef about ingredients. 

I do always try to look at the positive side of things.  While the whole situation was horrific it has provided me with a perfect excuse to avoid work dinners!

Thursday, December 2, 2010



How to have a successful Thanksgiving…

Friends+ Laughter+ Love+ Food+ Wine= Fantasticness

When I first moved away from home I was far enough away that I was not really able to go home for Thanksgiving. I have to admit to a lower lip tremble over that. I am from a very close family and getting together for the holidays has always been very important to us. But since I was away, I decided to make the best of the holidays and to create my own holiday rituals and customs.

I have been very lucky in my Thanksgivings since I left home. The first year, I lived in San Diego, it was just Bulent and me. After the large chaotic extended family Thanksgivings it was a little hard emotionally. However, the high point of that year was that I successfully learned how to cook the entire meal by myself.

The second year in San Diego my BFF from New Hampshire came out with her husband and we had an amazing time. They had never been to California so it was a beach vacation rolled into the Thanksgiving holiday for them. Together we made the meal and had such a happy holiday. It really soothed my holiday homesickness.

The third year in San Diego my cousin had moved to LA and we had many more close friends. That year we hosted a Bad Ass Thanksgiving, complete with apple cider martinis and after Turkey clubbing downtown.

Last year we didn’t host but this year we really did it in style. This was our first “Married” holiday so it was pretty special that way. We had a fantastic Thanksgiving. We hosted 16 people, there was food, conversation and general merriment. We had an amazing time.

In the short time I have been in Ankara I have been lucky enough to make some truly amazing friends. Now I have my family that I was born to and the family that I have made. Holidays are no longer a time of the lower lip trembling-- which is excitement in itself.

While Thanksgiving was a blast there was a lot to the preparation because of the amount of food to be cooked.

TXGIV TURKEY 2010 It included--

2 Turkeys
3 Kilos of green bean casserole
4 Kilos of mashed pumpkin
3 Kilos of cauliflower gratin
2 Kilos mashed potato
1 Salad
1 Pecan pie
1 Pumpkin pie
1 Apple pie
1 Crazy Allergic Reaction*


While I did cook most of the food myself, two of my amazing friends decided to deal with the kitchen afterwards. They did all of the pots and pans, put away the food and in general took care of 90% of the clean up. It was the best gift EVER!

Next year I will re-introduce the apple cider martinis and the dinner may be potluck. It will still be fantastic though, no matter what! All the trappings and trimmings Thanksgiving just disguise the real point of the holiday. A time for our “Framily” (friends+family) to spend time together.

*One of the reasons this post is so late and also will be the subject of the next post.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Kurban Bayram and a Vacation

This week is Kurban Bayram or Eid al-Adha, the second religious holiday after Ramadan.  It is a festival of sacrifice, and charity.  Animals, usually sheep and cows, are sacrificed to represent Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son.  After the sacrifice a certain percentage of the meat is donated to the poor.  The rest is divided among the family.  Usually during this time your time is spent doing family visits and memorial visits.  Usually the first or second day of Bayram the family visits the cemetery and pays respect to their dead. 

The visits start out at the oldest relatives home, and progress down the line.  At the visits tea and snacks are served, usually one salty and one sweet.  You can not refuse.  So Bayram becomes a time of visiting and eating, and eating and visiting.  And then later feeling slightly ill due to the amount of sugar and tea you have consumed. 

But not this year!!!  This year the calendar aligned so Bayram started Monday at 12pm and ended Friday.  The government decided to give us all of Monday off which means we have the whole week off! YAY! 

We decided to drive down to Marmaris, a 10 hour drive and spend the week at the summer house.  It has been great.  It is cool, about 60 and a little rainy but incredibly gorgeous.  During the summer it is usually about 100 degrees so it is so nice to take walks along the sea or in the mountain without seriously worrying  about heat stroke and death. 

As I write this I am sitting in the garden, under a lush canopy of green, smelling the jasmine in the air moist and rich from the rain. I can even hear the crickets and frogs.  A vast difference from sitting here in the sweltering heat listening to the loud techno music from the bar down the streets and the drunk tourists swearing while they stumble on the road behind me after a night of clubbing. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Trip to Niğde

A few weeks ago we took a trip to Niğde, where my husband’s mother is from. Niğde is know for its apple production, and his family owns a small apple orchard down there. We were going to watch the harvest. We drove down Saturday and were greeted by chilly weather and rain. We did manage to see Kapadokya’s most intact and well preserved Byzantine Monastery, Gümüşler Monastery. After trudging around in the freezing rain seeing the historical site for several hours, we had a lovely dinner with some extended family.

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In Niğde in mid-October there was already snow on the mountains. Niğde is nestled into the plains surrounded by inactive volcanic mountains.


When wewere there we were supposed to go to the apple orchards and watch the harvest, but we ran into some trouble. We spent the afternoon in a small village looking for a mechanic, then for a tow truck.


While we were waiting I took a look around the village.

We saw puppies…we always do.


Plums drying in the sun.


Farmers harvesting cabbage.


That last photo was taken from inside the car on the top of the tow truck. We needed a new radiator and by the time it was fixed it was time to head back to Ankara. It was a whirlwind trip. While we did have some fun we have since decided that we will save trips of five hours of driving or more for long weekends only.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Amasra: Last Road Trip with the FamFam

Before the wedding, when my parents were in Turkey we took the opportunity to see as many parts of Turkey as possible.  We went to Cappadocia and saw the fairy chimneys.  Then we started on our Black Sea tour.  The first stop was Safranbolu, and the next was Amasra. 

Amasra is a small town on the Black Sea,.  The industry is primarily fishing and tourism.  The trip there is pretty amazing.  You have to drive through the mountains, there are one lane bridges and high passes through the mountains when the road ends six inches from a hundred foot sheet drop with no guardrail.  While the driver has to have their eyes glued to the road the passengers can enjoy the troop.  The drive is incredibly scenic.  From the last mountain you drive up and over there is an amazing view of the town of Amasra.  AmasraIt is on a protected cove with two small peninsulas shielding it from the main sea.  Amasra is best known for its delicious fish and the “Amasra Salad” 

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A mix of lettuce, arugula, green onions, green garlic shoots, dill, radishes, parsley, pickled beets, carrots and some other delicious and spicy additions. 


We were there in the off season so it was nice and quiet.  We were just there to enjoy the sights and the fish.  What was interesting was that people were trying to pick us up.  There were some older women waiting on the streets, and when we parked the car they raced up to us, competing over offering us rooms at their pensions or homes. 


We ended up staying in a hotel right on the water.  The pensions offered by the women who were cruising us were well priced and safe, but not on the water.  We were only there for one night and so we wanted to be able to appreciate the sea.


We had a fantastic time and it was a lovely trip with my parents.  We headed back to Ankara the next day to see some of the local sites and get ready for the Turkish wedding. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Better Day

Today was less stressful and the kids were fine.  Also I have tomorrow off. That makes the world a better place in general.  Today I also had a student write something very sweet and profound.  The kind of thing that reminds me why I became a teacher, and why I bother with nagging the brats about doing their homework. 

I managed to save the Craptastic Soup.  It was supposed to be Ezogelin Corba.  The proportions of the recipe were off, the bulgur in the soup soaked up too much of the liquid, and the flavor was flat.  I split it in half, spiced up and revived one half as soup and the other half as a bulgur pilaf.  So Yay!  I hate wasting food, but as we all know, when you try new recipes or experiment with them every once in a while you get a dud.  Thankfully I was able to save mine.   

Tomorrow I will be hitting up the pazar.  I usually go on Sundays, buy my produce and wash and prepare it for the upcoming week.  However, I do not cook much during the week because I get home late.  Then on the weekend, when I actually have time to cook, I run out out of fresh things to cook with before Sunday.*  Our neighborhood pazar is open on Thursdays and Mondays, now that my day off falls on Thursday instead of Wednesday, I can take advantage of this.  Another Yay!


* I could actually go to the grocery store and get what I want and I sometimes do.  However, I prefer to buy my produce and eggs at the pazar.  It is fresher and I feel I am helping support the local economy.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Oh Real Life? Ouch!

Back from the delicious lands of vacation and back to work.  This year I have adjusted my teaching style from Western to Turkish.  If I treated my students in the US this way there would have been a mutiny.  I am serious.  I stopped wearing dangly earring while working in San Diego because I was afraid they would be RIPPED from my earlobes while I broke up fights.  I am not kidding.  One time I thought these girls were going to toss each other from a window (3rd floor.) 

Turkish students are used to authoritarian teaching, they do not respond well to the US style of teaching.  They see it as weakness and walk all over you.  Since I have modified my style the students behave better and learn more.  Class is a little less fun for all of us, but since the learning has improved I will suck it up and be a crazy b*tch.  On the plus side they are much more respectful in general, and are very sweet.

Today was a long hard day. Hall duty and 7 classes which means I have to stand in the hall darning ALL the breaks including lunch and only have one class off all day (40 minutes at 10 am—that’s when I eat my lunch.)

After eight hours of standing on my feet and holding both my bladder (we are not supposed to leave the hall to use the bathroom) and my patience, I went home and started to cook.  Cooking relaxes me.  However I followed a recipe and it was a big fat fail.  I now have to figure out how t salvage all that craptastic soup.  Cooking did not work to relax me this time. 

So now I am having a glass of wine.  And it seems to be hitting the spot.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


While my parents were here they wanted to head up north as well.  My mom did not want to make plans or reservations, just to play the adventure by ear.  So one day we hopped in the car and drove north towards the Black Sea.  We stopped in Safranbolu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its well preserved Ottoman-era houses and architecture.

TR Adventures and Wedding 009 We had a lovely time.  We stopped and had a bite to eat at small cafe and then explored town. Yes, in this photo I am on the phone.  I had checked for local hotels and was calling to see if there was room for the night.


And there was!  We stayed at Mehves Hanim Konagi, it was a lovely old Ottoman Style house, wonderfully refurbished. The proprietor was great.  Since it was just my parents and me we thought we could share a large room.  However, since there was no room with 3 beds (only cots for children) she gave us two rooms for the price of one.  IMG_0471

Later we hiked all around town.  There is a large covered pazar which sells all kinds of goods.  Above the city on a hill there is a small park.  For a lira admission you can go in and see a panoramic view of the whole town.  Up on the far side you may be able to see a large yellow building.  That is a restored Ottoman mansion, which is now a museum.TR Adventures and Wedding 013

The museum hosts photos and examples of Safranbolu's history and culture, though all the explanations are in Turkish.  It also has a gallery of local women’s art work. 

After exploring Safranbolu a little morn the next morning we headed off in the morning to the next town on our list.  While it was not too far on the map, it took us longer to reach Amasra than we had thought.  Between the construction, the one-lane bridges and the mountain passes without guardrails it was an exciting drive.   More on that later.      

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Kapadokya with the FamFam

The trip to Kapadokya with my family was fantastic!  We stayed at an adorable little place in Goreme.   The owner was incredible helpful.  He steered us to some really wonderful small family owned restaurants where we had some truly incredible food.  I even went back to one of them later and learned how to make Turkish Manti (ravioli).

Showing my parents the incredible rock formations, with their amazing natural properties and unbelievable carvings and churches was really wonderful.  I was so excited to share my favorite parts of my new country with my Famfam. 

parents trip 198

We stayed in a lovely hotel which had a great view of the valley of Goreme. 

parents trip 117

We had two rooms on slightly different levels.  The rooms themselves were carved into the rock walls of the fairy chimneys.

parents trip 033

We shared a balcony which worked out very nicely for post hiking cocktails. 

parents trip 035

My parents were game for all kinds of hiking and tromping.  We climbed hills and rocks, looking for the best views. 

parents trip 084

This visit to Kapadokya we actually had time to hike in Ihlara valley.  This is a valley about 45 minutes away from Goreme.  To enter the valley you have to climb down about 400 steps because the valley walls are made of sheer rock cliffs.  Into these cliffs thousands of year ago people had carved large and elaborately decorated churches complete with vivid frescos.  There are also many cave-dwellings carved into the rock as well.  

parents trip 184

We hiked from the halfway down the valley to the end and saw several lovely churches and lots of cave dwellings. 

056  A stream ran through the middle of the valley separating the two sides.  At the end of the valley we wanted to walk back on the other side to see different scenery but there was no bridge.  We intrepid explorers found a shallow spot to cross and trudged through.  The effort to get to the other side was rewarded as the path was beautiful and there were several more churches on that side.   047

We also managed to visit a few wineries and take advantage of the regions other natural attractions. 

parents trip 121

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rockin’ Times in Turkey!

So my second wedding (to the same man in two months) is coming up.  My parents flew in to Turkey for the wedding and decided since they were in the country to take advantage of the situation.  We have taken two road trips, one to Kapadokya and one to the Black Sea Region.   We have been having a blast since my parents are awesome. 

I have already posted about Kapadokya, but will again soon since this time we went to different hotels, museums and restaurants.  It was also really great to see my parents experience the amazing landscape for the first time.   They also were able to share some new things with me.

My parents are early risers, so without them I never would have seen this. 

parents trip 126   Or this

parents trip 134

Yes, I am standing barefoot in my pajamas.  It was 6 am.  My parents had seen the hot air balloons coming down at sunrise and pounded on my door until I stumbled out of bed to see what the hell was going on. 

parents trip 144

It really was amazing, if a little bit chilly in my pjs.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Blue Cruise

For our honeymoon in Marmaris we had wanted to do something special. We decided on a “Blue Cruise,” a voyage around the nearby bays.  There are many types of Blue Cruise, they range from inexpensive to exorbitant.  The cheaper ones are usually day cruises with anywhere between 25-100 people on board.  Some boats also do week long tours, like little floating B&Bs. 

We decided we wanted privacy.  We found a family run boat, the crew a husband and wife team and went out on a three day Blue Cruise.  It was lovely.  Quiet, no music, simple fare, lots of relaxing and reading and swimming. One of the benefits of just the two of us on board was that we could really decided the itinerary.  If we were hot, we could anchor and swim, if we were tired just lay in the shade and nap.  No fighting over sunbeds for us. 

It was really lovely as we went to all these quiet secret bays with clear water.

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Little bays and nooks with old ruins…farther up the cliffs was an ancient church. 

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We had boat side BBQs with *fresh* fish. 

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We really had an amazing and unforgettable journey, which was the whole point.

Now we are spending our days at the summer house in Marmaris.  It is very warm, but we walk to the beach to swim in the late afternoon after it cools down a bit.  The evenings we spend in the garden or walking around town looking for the best place to have a drink that night.  There are many places with live music ranging from Rock to Jazz to Turku (Turkish Folk).  We really are taking advantage of our “Honey Month.”

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Oh Summer!

More details and photos about the Blue Cruise will be posted after an Internet connection is established. Until then I am doing the majority of my Internet business on my phone, which really makes posting a chore.

But today I hauled my tush to the Internet Cafe which is really impressive because it is HOT! I mean feel the asphalt burn you through your flip flops hot. It has been at least 100 degrees everyday here. Though yesterday, it was a cool 95. What was really funny is that it did feel cool to us!

It is actually so warm here we completely turned off the water heater. We take cold showers. I mean straight out the the ground cold, not luke warm, not cooling, cold! There is nothing more delicious on a burning hot day than a `Take your breath away` cold shower.

We spend most of our time in the shade in our bahçe during the warm parts of the day. We swim in the morning or evening when the sun is not as strong. Going to the beach mid-day feels like we may as well be taunting the Skin Cancer Gods to strike us down.

After an evening swim or walk we head to the bahçe again to read, talk or watch movies. I couldn´t have asked for a lovelier honeymoon, a more relaxing vacation or a more romantic summer!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

No Internet Connection = Irregular Posting

We won’t have internet for the rest of the month.  So posting may be spotty.  That is fine since it gives me the opportunity to post wedding porn!

So the lowdown on the wedding…It was fantastic!

We had a fairly small wedding on the lakeside.  The actually ceremony was under a tent on the shore and the reception was nearby at the boathouse on the same property. We had a small wedding party, just the matron of honor, the best man and a flower girl.  We wrote the ceremony, which included a ring warming, and the whole thing lasted about seven or eight minutes. 

My friends were amazing.  I had one friend drive up from Kentucky the Monday before the wedding (which was on a Saturday.)  My friend spent the week doing laundry and yard work and anything else that we asked, to help prep for the wedding.  My other friends all helped out and decorated the boathouse for the wedding. 

My matron of honor was amazing.  Not only did she arrange the shower and help with invitations and make my jewelry for the wedding, but she also hosted another one of my friends from out of town.  Her husband actually drove two hours to the airport to pick my friend up.  My friends are wonderful and I am so lucky.

There was one small hitch.  My Matron of Honor got a flat tire on the way to the wedding.  She calls, says she already has the tire iron out and shouldn’t be more than 15 minutes late, just then in the background I hear “That's a might pretty dress…”  Some boys stopped and helped her and she was only 10 minutes late. It worked out fine.  While we were waiting for her I shoved my future sister-in-law out of the limo to start the ring warming so the guests would get too antsy.  Enough with the talking though….Wedding Porn.


Nazar Boncu pinned to my dress


My brother and me at our home.

whole fam

My parents, brother and me at the house.FIRST KISS

First Kiss


Walking out as husband and wife. (Music: Signed, Sealed, Delivered by Stevie Wonder)


Walking to the boathouse with my men.


Wedding cake, which my mother and I made.  She has the skill, I just helped. 


  View from the boathouse.

More photos coming later, including tales from the Morning After Brunch.  That’s right, my mom threw an after wedding brunch for 75 people and cooked it all herself. And it was tasty!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Honeymoon is Honey Month

In Turkish, “honeymoon” translates into “honey month.” We are totally taking advantage of that. We will be at the summer house in Marmaris on the Mediterranean for almost the whole month of August. There was a reason we both steered our careers towards academia. We have been having a lovely time, restful time. We spend out evenings drinking wine and beer in the garden, reading.

There may be a slight hiatus with the blogging since the internet is not working at the house currently. I found a nearby restaurant to haul the laptop to though. It is only a 5 minute walk, but hauling your laptop even five minutes when it is sunny and 100 degrees is less than fun.

Tomorrow we are going on a 3 day “Blue Cruise.” Bulent and I, along with the couple who owns the boat will be traveling to different coves and beaches. I can assure you that there will be copious amounts of photos coming about about Marmaris and the cruise as well as belated wedding photos.

But I will leave you will this…

Hot day, cold beer, on the Mediterranean.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pig Roast means pork right?

My cousin lives in New Hampshire, she and her fiancé own several hundred acres of orchard and a couple of houses that sit on the property.  With their gorgeous setting they have hosted parties and weddings over the years.  This year they decided to host a “Pig Roast.”  In translation that means a pig on a spit, cooked for 12 hours, and a keg of beer.  However my cousin, in her infinite class and wisdom, decided to do a whole lot more. I arrived to find the whole orchard mowed, a large tent with several picnic table covered by table clothes, and a tremendous amount of tasty food.  There was guacamole, salad, casseroles, lasagna and paella.  That is right.  This was a “Paella and Pig Roast.” 

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(There were two large paella-That’s right, be jealous)

I might have eaten enough to impress the young men there.  I think after my 2nd or 3rd plate one guy told me,  “ I KNEW I liked you!”

Then there was the pig.  Oh the pig! Scary to look at, moist and delicious and tasty!

after wedding 004That was a lot of pork, but I ate as much as I could and then snacked all night!

My younger cousin and his friends were there too.  The young guys thought that the keg would be lonely if they did not keep it company. To do so they decided to do “keg stands.”  I had no idea what this was---I went to an all women's college-We drank profusely but never standing on our heads.  Our university taught us all about gravity. 

after wedding 021“Keg Stands” are when you tip yourself upside down, other people hold your legs steady and you drink directly from the keg tap-while upside down.  This particular guy upped the challenge and started doing upside down push-ups while drinking beer upside down.  Wowza! 

I was able to eat copious amounts of food, mostly slow roasted pork, scarf paella and hang out with my cousins all night.  It was a wonderful time and an awesome party!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sib Date

I will be posting wedding photos as soon as I get the photos from the photographer.  I will try not to gag you with them, but seriously, I will be posing some!  A few weeks ago my brother and I went on a “Sib Date.”  We dressed up and went out together, to catch up and hang out before the wedding.  We never have to discuss where to eat as the answer is always: SUSHI!  We were super hungry when we got there, and we may have over ordered.


We did the best we could, but we had also ordered appetizers.  But a sushi extravaganza with sake is both my brother and my idea of a good time.  My brother is a super sweet and cool dude and it is always great to be able to hang out with him.