Doğa Karadeniz

Recently I went on a trip to the Doğa Karadeniz with my brother and husband.  I will blog about the places separately from the experience…which was a doozy.  While certain parts of the trip were very lovely, it was sort of a comedy of errors.  We flew into Trabzon and from there made our way to Çamlıhemşin. Bülent booked a bungalow for us, Eko Danitap, it was supposed to be lovely and beautiful.  The directions were wrong. We followed them to a T, and in following the signs we were led up a narrow, scary series of switchbacks, and at the top of the mountain…no Eko Danitap.  Even asking for directions we were unable to find the hotel and when we called for directions, the land line had been disconnected and no one answered the cell number.  Even knowing we were coming, as we made a reservation, we never got a response or a call back. 

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We had to find new accommodations.  However, one of the the reason we had a reservation was because it was early in the tourist season and not all hotels were open.  We decided to  head up to Ayder Yaylası, we had heard it was incredibly beautiful.  It was, but also cold.  We managed to find an open hotel, and the rooms were very nice.  The owner said it would take a little while for the water to get hot for the showers.  We didn’t think much of it.  Except the water never got hot, and the toilet in our room didn’t work.  They couldn’t get it fixed.  The toilet in my brother’s room worked though, thank goodness…Welcome to Turkey, thanks for flying thousands of miles for my birthday—the least we could offer would be indoor plumbing.2014-03-15 08.29.34

Despite the issues, we decided to stay the night, as it was getting late and we were far from anything.  When we woke up there was still no hot water.  We had breakfast and then decided to take a walk. Ayder was absolutely breathtaking. 

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We were near the Kaçkar Mountain Park, so we walked up that way.  It really was gorgeous. Icy mountains, crystal clear brooks and pristine air. 

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After a brisk walk we all felt the need for a shower, and decided to leave Ayder Yaylası, for a place that was heavily recommended by a local we had met, Uzungöl.  The wonders (or lack thereof) of “Long Lake” or Uzungöl deserve a post all of its own.  

Yumurtalı Ispanak (Spinach with Eggs)

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This is a traditional breakfast, lunch or light dinner meal.  If serving it for lunch or dinner, it is often made with ground beef as well (500 gr.)  If you want extra protein, vegetarian style, you can add cooked red lentils.  My husband likes his eggs scrambled in, in addition to lentils in this dish.  I like my eggs poached with runny yolks.  The beauty of this dish is that I can do both in the same pan.  Add lentils and mixed eggs to one side, and poach my deliciously runny eggs on the other.  I always serve it with bread or biscuits to soak up the yummy juices!!

Ingredients

2 bunches of  spinach (about 1 kilo with stems) cleaned
4 eggs ( you can poach them or scramble them)
1 small onion (finely chopped)
1 small garlic clove (minced)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp of tomato paste
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
½ tsp red pepper flakes

Heat the oil and add the onion, and allow to soften.  Chop the spinach roughly.  When the onion is softened and translucent add the minced garlic, salt, tomato paste, black and red pepper.  Add the spinach to wilt, and cover.  If you prefer your dish saucier, add a half a cup of water.  You may need to add a little more liquid if planning to poach your eggs in the spinach dish.

Surprise!!

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I have written about my brother before, and even created a meme.  But this really out does it.  My brother is a great guy, sweet, caring, kind to children and animals and good looking.  He cooks, will do pedicures and when necessary he will stand calf deep in shit and dig up the septic system, because that it what needs to be done.  We get along really well and have a great relationship, I had a blast when I went to visit y family in February.  We had a couple of “sib” nights and hung out, just the two of us. 

Last week I turned 30.  I was a little less than thrilled to leave my twenties behind, but I was not too concerned about turning thirty.  I had planned to go out to sushi with a friend after work, but my husband asked me to join him for a basketball game instead.  I decided we could do sushi another time.  I came home and Bülent was still in his nice work clothes, which is unusual.  We usually come home and change right into comfy clothes.   Then from around the corner appears…Elliot.  I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT!  My brother was there.  IN MY APARTMENT.  IN ANKARA!   Apparently there was a bet between Bülent and Elliot that I would should “Oh my god” first, but the first word I said was “WHAT?!” My darling brother flew in for my birthday! 

My brother, on my couch, in my house in Ankara!

Bülent  had told me we would go on a surprise trip for my birthday, which I will detail in a later post.  He told me that there were two surprises, one was the location, which he would reveal before we went for packing purposes, the other he would not.  They had been planning the surprise for about three weeks.  It was such a great gift, to spend time with more of my family together. 

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The trip was to the Doğa Karadeniz (Eastern Black Sea) where I have been wanting to go for a while.  It certainly was an interesting trip, filled with adventure, and challenges-more on that later.  However, the scenery was beautiful and we all had a wonderful time being together.  

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I couldn’t have asked for a more special or memorable birthday.  This new decade was ushered in by a surprise of such magnitude and a week of such happiness and excitement, that I can only imagine what is to next to come.

Hoşaf (Fruit Compote)

This is a great winter fruit dish, using fruit that was harvested and then dried while in season.  Hoşaf is considered a drink, a dessert or a side. It can be made with a variety of fruits such as dried raisins, apricots, plums, pears, cherries, etc.  My father-in-law used to drink it in the summer when he was young, before soft drinks were popular. This drink is incredibly refreshing in the summer and a nice treat with or after dinner.   This is also traditionally served as a side with börek.

Ingredients:

4 cups of Dried fruits (mostly Apricots but it is nice to add dried plums)
8-10 cups of water
1 cup of sugar *Optional (add as much or little as you like)

 

Directions:

Rinse fruit thoroughly.
Bring 8-10 cups of water to a roiling boil.
When it is boiling add the dried fruit to the water (and sugar if using) and shut off the heat.

Let the fruit sit in the water until the water cools. Once the water has cooled, place the pot in the fridge. Let it sit a few hours, a day is better, before  eating the hoşaf. The longer the hoşaf sits the tastier it becomes.

I prefer a main component of apricots with some plums thrown in, the apricots release their sugar more than the plums do so you end up with a sweeter juice. I do not usually add sugar. 

Zeytinyağlı Pırasa/Leeks in Olive Oil

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1 kilo of leeks, washed well and chopped in 1/3 inch rounds
1 big onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, chopped in rounds or half moons
1/4 cup rice
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of one lemon
2/3 – 1 cup hot water
1 tsp. sugar
Salt
Pepper
1-2 garlic cloves (optional)

Chop onions, and sauté in oil oil for about five minutes, until translucent.  Cut off the tough outside parts of the leeks, wash thoroughly and cut into 1/4 inch slices.  Peel carrot and chop into 1/4 inch slices. Add the carrots, leeks and garlic and sauté gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the rest of the ingredients, stir, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, until all ingredients are tender.*   It is best served cool or at room temperature.  Squeeze a little fresh lemon juice on top, add lemon slices for a garnish. 

*Sometimes a 1/4 a cup of rice is added with the rest of the ingredients. 

Québec City and Le Carnaval

While I was home on semester break, my family and I decided to take a vacation together.  Last year we went on the memorial cruise, so this year we wanted to do something different, and closer to home.   We decided on Québec when we found out that their Winter Carnival or Le Carnaval de Québec coincided with my trip.  We knew it was going to be cold five hours farther north, but it is winter, so it was going to be cold at home too!  It is one of the oldest cities in North America, and the only fortified city as well.  We stayed just outside the walled city, and right off of Grande Allée, one of the cities oldest streets, filled with cafes, restaurants and bars.

In and around the walled city, the architecture takes on a distinctly European look.2014-01-31 14.55.29 

Between hearing the French on the streets and the architecture, if you ignored the people walking around posh areas in snow pants (with no ski slope in view) you would swear you were in some Francophone part of Europe. 

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I particularly loved where the old and new cities met.  On the right there is a historic building, in the background a modern high-rise and in between an urban ice skating rink. 

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After touring around the Old City, we headed about 10 kilometers out of town to check out the Ice Hotel, or Hôtel de Glace.  While I wouldn’t want to sleep there, it was amazing. It had almost everything a typical hotel would, including a bar with drinks sold in ice glasses.

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Some of the rooms were plain while others were intricately decorated with carved ice bed frames and snow murals on the walls. 

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Many of the hallways were artistically carved and lit as well. 

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There was a chapel, complete with an ice alter and pews, and apparently many weddings are held there.  It was very lovely, but it would take a special kind of wedding dress as the temperature was about 20°F. 

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The Winter Carnival was very entertaining.  It catered to families and adults.  Private outfits had set up booths to advertise their wares, like outdoor winter spas and heated hammocks.  There were food stalls selling everything from fried dough to poutine to grilled trout.  There was a bar that sold beer and wine as well as hot wine in ice glasses.  There were also many fun activities, like tubing, sledding, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing.  One night when it was snowing my brother and I participated in a game of human foosball.  We won. 

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There was even a stand that had set up an ice fishing area, with a heavy layer of ice laid over a reservoir stocked with trout.  When you exited there was a stand where you could buy a grilled trout or get the one you just caught roasted. 

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The ice luge

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There were also some amazing snow sculptures.  It was a competition, and the snow artist had a limited amount of time to complete their sculptures.  Many of them worked over the night, and we stopped by to watch for a while.  In the morning we went by again to see the finished products.  Some were based on fairly large concepts. 

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While other were abstract. 

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And some just right out there. 

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We had a great time in Québec, not just because of the city and the carnival, but because it is so nice to spend time together as a family.  Between getting the old house ready to sell, moving to the new house and getting Mom’s new place all settled in, there is usually always something to do at the house (or one of them.)  I don’t mind this, and am really glad I was there to help out during at least part of the transition.  However when there is always a project to work on, it is hard to get quality family time.  Going away to Québec for part of my trip was great. I was able to hang around the house, relax and help out on  few projects, but also have some really great time with my family while we did nothing but be a family.

My Brother Earned a Meme

I have been home visiting my family for winter break.  I love my family, but also feel very lucky that we are friends too.  Not everyone has a brother or a mother that they would chose to be their friends.  I have been having a great time with both, but hanging out with my brother is particularly fun.  And on that note, he has earned a meme.  Generally he is a great guy, but in the last week there were two really amusing incidents which illustrate his matter of fact stance on equality.

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Elliot has never been one to discriminate, but as he got older and more aware, he became a feminist and an equal rights supporter.  The best part is how nonchalant he is about it, it is not something he believes, it is just something he does.

While I was home for winter break my mother and I were considering going out and getting pedicures.  But then we had a discussion about not having enough time, and we decided to forgo the pedicures.  My brother was in the room and was aware of the subject, but not participating.  My mother then switched the subject from human pedicures to the dog’s nails.  Elliot still wasn’t paying attention fully yet when mom asked him if he would give her, Pumpkin–our Rhodesian Ridgeback, a pedicure.  Unaware of the subject change, he glanced at me, shrugged and said, “Sure. But I am not sure how good I will be at painting the edges.”  He was willing, if not able, to give me a pedicure.  Instead, together we ended up taking care of Pumpkin’s nails.  He wielded the trimmers, while I held the huge dog still.

The next day we were picking up a four wheeler.  We had to get it repaired for the new owners of our childhood home. We had to move a table with two large (occupied) rabbit cages on it to access it.  Once we had access to it, it was still a little tough to get it up on the truck.   We only had two narrow boards and a hand winch to get the massive four wheeler up on the back of the big truck.  We started out with Elliot working the hand winch, while I guided the four wheeler up the boards. Then we changed places thinking if someone had to push it over the edge of the truck bed, it should be him.  Feminism aside, this dude is way stronger than I am.Image

So there I was, slowly winching the four wheeler up the steep boards, and Elliot is somewhere off to the side.  I called out to ask him what he was doing, and he said he was standing away from the four wheeler so if the sagging boards cracked he wouldn’t be in the way.  It made sense.  Though if the boards did crack, I would be the one holding the the ATV by the hand winch with no other supports.

So I finally finish winching the four wheeler up, and the ATV is completly up on the bed.  After, Ell comes around from the side. I hadn’t seen him the whole time.  I asked him what he was doing in the garage when I was getting the four wheeler up onto the truck.  His reply, ” I was petting the bunnies. They are really soft.”

So there you go, from pedicures, abstaing from the assumption he would do the heavy lifting, to petting bunnies, for equality in all ways, my brother.  Though I have to say, I was dissapointed.  I would have liked to pet the bunnies too.  Image

Smells Like Home

Yesterday I went to the pazar.  When I first moved here I went to the pazar almost every week. It was fun and exciting.  It still is, but it is also a lot of work.  I have to come home and wash and process it all.   I also tend to buy more when I am at the pazar and it is hard to consume it all before it spoils.  I am very careful to try to avoid wasting food.  But yesterday I dragged myself out of the house and headed to the pazar.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It was pretty cold yesterday, and scattered throughout the pazar were bonfires.  Some in barrels, some not. 

In Ankara, in the winter the smell of black coal usually covers up all others. Coal is cheaper than gas, and is burned quite frequently in lower income areas.  It creates a distinct smell and a dark haze in the valleys.  Often times in the winter, when I go out I come back smelling like coal.  It is not particularly pleasant. 

But last night I went to the pazar, and besides the normal sensory experiences the pazar usually offers, there was a new scent.  Wood fires.  Being from New Hampshire, I am well used to the smell of wood fires.  Almost every family I knew, ours included, had a wood stove for winter hearing.  I find the smell of burning wood aromatic and homey.  The smell,  plus the ambient light, made the pazar WICKED FUN!  The pazar is definitely back on my list of fun excursions. 

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Root Vegetable Roulette

Hmmm…Maybe not the best idea.  I have been seeing lots of yummy winter vegetable recipes online.  One of them was for roasted root vegetables; beets, carrots, rutabaga, parsnips and turnips.  YUM!  In Turkey, from that list we only have carrots and beets.  There are some turnip varieties, but they are usually only used raw.  So I decided to try out what was available in the market.   I used carrots, black turnips, onions, beets, and celeriac.  I brought some to school for lunch yesterday, it was tasty.  Cue a sleepless night and intestinal distress.   I thought maybe it was the fiber causing indigestion.  So I kept food light today and packed chicken soup.  It was all homemade, down to the stock.  At lunch I ate my beautiful homemade soup, and vicious intestinal distress ensued.  Just in time for my most challenging classes.  Hmm.  So since I knew exactly what went into everything, I figured out the common denominator.  BLACK TURNIP.  I checked it out online and apparently it increases acid and bile production in the intestinal track, great for people with sluggish systems. But eating too much causes over production and irritation of the digestive tract.   Bummer.  So watch yourself with the black turnip.  It might get you.    Root Vegetable Roulette…almost as dangerous as the version with guns.   Well, that might be a slight exaggeration, but it is definitely no fun. 

On Touching Children

In the United States you are not supposed to touch children familiarly unless they are yours, or the spawn of a close friend or family member.  As a teacher I was always very careful to keep my physical distance.  The only time I touched kids was when I was breaking up fights and tearing them apart or when they graduated and were saying goodbye.  There was one time when I flashed a girl my fun bits, but that was on a field trip to the beach and there were no doors on the stalls of the public bathrooms.

When I was a babysitter in college I always asked what the parents wanted me to do when I had to go to the bathroom.  When you haul a baby into the bathroom it is one thing, but when a toddler talks you want permission.  It was never a problem, “So…do you want me to leave your baby alone and unsupervised or do you want them to come into the bathroom with me?”  It was always the latter, but I still felt the need for specific permission.

In Turkey it is completely different.  Strangers pet children on the head and pinch their cheeks.  In a restaurant a toddler might be carried off by a waiter, played with, coddled, given treats and returned a while later.  Children running around in restaurants (1st difference…this is acceptable behavior) may be snatched into laps for kisses and then let go, a Turkish catch and release program.

In Turkey, parents and their children may feel insulted if you do not touch or snuggle their child.  They might feel rejected or unappreciated if they have not received a certain amount of physical attention.  I have gotten used to touching my students.  It was really strange at first.  In the beginning it made me really nervous to touch them, or worse when they touched me.  GAHHH.  They would come up, lean on me , put their heads on my shoulder, or touch my arms.   *Shudder*  I was so accustomed for this to be taboo it took quite a while to become comfortable with the situation.

Nowadays it is easy for me to touch students.  I have actually pinched cheeks.  I tweak their pony tails, rub their heads, pass a hand over their back, rub their arm, give their hands a squeeze.   Occationally I drag them around by their itty bitty neck ties they are required to wear.  They love it.  It makes them feel appreciated and valued.  It gives us a connection, a foundation on which to build a working relationship in the classroom.  I don’t hug my current students, but will my former students.  I kiss their cheeks when they give me presents, whether it is a bracelet or card they made for me or a silk scarf.

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Today I cuddled a child completely unknown to me, I was walking my dog in the park and the situation led me to it.  He was being chased by a street dog, one I know and never bothers me.   I feed him, and his puppies, he usually rolls over for belly rubs from me and has actually protected my small terrier from other street dogs.  About 10, the boy was terrified, the dog wasn’t biting him, but was barking and lunging at him.  He had gone too close to where the puppies were.  He kept running, and the dog was chasing him.  I told him, in my teacher voice, “Stay still, Don’t run.” I was so glad I know all the imperative forms in Turkish from my hall duty experience at school!  “Come here, son.” (In Turkey you only refer to children as “children”, “daughter” or “son”)  So while the dog was lunging at him (I knew the dog wouldn’t hurt us) I hugged him, stroked his face and talked to him.  “It’s ok, let’s go, together  ok…?” My Turkish is still a little weak.  The dog continued to follow and lunge, so I tucked the kid under my arm and held his hands so he wouldn’t get nipped.  Meanwhile I scolded the dog, who then stopped.  But the minute I separated from the boy, the dog started lunging again.  So I put my arm around him, stroked his face and then Butterfinger and I walked him home.  While I could have helped him regardless of the touching, but it made him feel safer, feel comforted.  Without it he might has still felt scared and lost and alone.

Clearly touching needs to be appropriate, but I have learned the value of it with children, the connection it can provide, a link to help a child, encourage, and console.  Maybe I find this interesting because I do not have my own children and discovering how this stuff works.

As with everything, there are pros and cons for each of my countries.  For example, in Turkey people don’t stand in lines, they push their way to the front and fight for service.  But while you are standing there bewildered and waiting your turn, I guarantee that some old lady will haul your kid onto their lap so they don’t have to stand while you figure it out.

The Vicious Dog in question…

Yes, that is him playing with children on the slide.

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