Foça, sometimes called Eski Foça to differentiate it from Yeni Foça, was a beautiful place.  We stayed in an adorable pension named Iyon Pansiyon, about a block from the water. The rooms were clean and comfortable, opening on to a large stone courtyard filled with green plants and fruit trees.  At night it was beautiful to sit in the serene courtyard and read with the lights hanging from the trees P1016506

Foça is still an actual fishing village, so while you walked along the wharf with the tourist shops and restaurants, along the water side there were fishermen cleaning and selling their catch, fixing their nets and preparing to go out.

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I was lucky to run into a couple of pazars. One was the typical pazar, the exception being a difference in some local produce and the amount and varieties of olives available.  Foça is on the Aegean and the area is known for its olive production.


The other was a local organic pazar that was part of the “Slow Food” network. The products were locally produced with a minimum of interference and without the use of forcing or overproduction via hothouse.

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Above from left to right: walnuts, olive oil soap,sundried tomatoes                Second row: garlic and almonds

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First row: lettuce, Black Sea cabbage (Laz lahanasi) eggplants                                Second row: Arugula, parsley, mint, beans

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Foça used to be a Greek town, and so there are many beautiful old Greek stone (Rum) houses.

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Honestly, it was quiet and charming. There were shops and restaurants enough to make it fun and interesting, but quiet enough that you did not feel bombarded by tourism.  We asked one of the locals about living there, were there any negative aspects to life in Foça?  She thought hard and then told us she would need more time to think about it.  A few hours later she said the she still couldn’t think of one…It is definitely on our short list of places to live if we every move from Ankara!

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A 9 Day Bayram!

This year Kurban Bayrami started on a Monday (1/2 day) and ended on a Friday.  Since it connected to the weekends it made a 9 day HOLIDAY!   Bülent and I wanted to take advantage of this time and check out some places we haven’t been before.  Based on the weather we decided to do a northern Aegean road trip.  Our original plan was to leave right after work on Friday and drive straight through to Foça, a 9.5 hour drive.  However, even if we never stopped to use the bathroom  (Like that is possible with my bladder capacity! HA!) we wouldn’t get there until after 2 a.m.  So Friday afternoon we changed the plan. We decided to hit the road, but stop in Uşak, a city on the way, about 400 kilometers from Ankara. 


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It is an inner Anatolian city, but part of the Aegean region of Turkey.  Occasionally I find the smaller inner Anatolian cities pretty conservative.  However, Uşak was a really nice city.  Their central street was pedestrian access only with tons of bars and cafes.  It was pretty lively with a wide range of people, even though we arrived at 11 pm.  The next morning the streets were filled with families shopping and young people getting brunch and old men in their Aegean Style hats people watching. 


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The next day we hit the road to begin our Aegean tour.  On the trip we stopped by Izmir, Foça, Ayvalık, Alibey Island, Assos, Bozcaada and Bursa.  We had such an amazing time that I will be doing a blog post about each of our main stops.  What was really special was that even though we were busy for the whole trip we got back and felt relaxed and rested. 

Easter and Daylight Savings

This morning I am sitting on the balcony with a cup of coffee, with only a light sweatshirt on. Spring is definitely here! It was beautiful yesterday too, around 65. So we invited friends to walk with us an Eymir Gölü. We walked around lake, about 10k, and stopped at Bağ Evi to have a bite of lunch. Unfortunately they no longer serve beer (as is becoming more common here) so instead we got a samovar of tea and had fresh gözleme.

Today was Daylight Savings.  I always hate too lose an hour, and it puts us ahead of the U.S. by seven hours again, instead of six.  That one hour really makes a difference. 

Today is also Easter.  Happy Easter!  I know there are people in my building who are celebrating it at their church, but as a non-believer I passed on the invitation.  However, it seems strange not at least to do Easter Brunch.  It is funny to find how culturally ingrained holidays are, even if you aren’t religious.  I made hot cross buns the other day.  It seemed seasonally appropriate.  However, the next time I make them I will forgo the icing on top and rather than making buns, will use the though to make a loaf of bread.  I think it will be very tasty sliced and toasted.  I will be tweaking the recipe and posting it soon. 

Happy Spring!  Happy Easter!  Happy Nevruz!

Christmas in Vienna

This year for Christmas we decided to do something different.  For the last three Christmases we have been in Ankara.  It is usually pretty quiet, there are some expat arranged parties, but somehow without family it seems a little hollow.  The malls are brightly decorated for New Years, but in Turkey Christmas has always seemed a little anti-climatic.  In the past we usually have a special dinner on Christmas Eve and go out to brunch on Christmas since I have to work the next day.  I am lucky to have an employer who give me Christmas Eve and Day off, many others have to work.   

This year the stars aligned and Christmas fell on a Monday and Tuesday, combined with my regular day off (Wednesday) and the weekend, gave me a five day break for Christmas.  My friend Lisa told me about the sales Turkish Airlines was having, and we decided to make the most of it!

Bülent was in the Czech Republic the week before Christmas, guest teaching at a couple of different universities.  We decided he would take a train and meet me in Vienna.  I was able to get a great flight out of Ankara on the Saturday before Christmas.   It was wonderful! The air in Vienna emanated Christmas cheer, we kept coming across Christmas markets, lured by the scent of sausages, cookies and hot punsch (a warm alcoholic beverage).

Rathausplatz Christmas Market

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Christmas Ornament Stalls

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We walked a lot during this vacation, we set out with a vague itinerary and then just ambled around the city.  We would have liked to go to more museums, but many things were closed for Christmas—naturally.

The Museum Quarter

Most days, we looked at the map before we left the hotel room, but not after.  We had a vague idea of where we were going, but did not feel the need to pull out the map and check to make sure we were going in the right direction.  It was an adventure, and planning everything and stressing out about where we we going would have ruined it.  For Christmas Eve, we ambled. We started out near our hotel at Rathausplatz, and walked by the Votive Church and the the University of Vienna. 


From there we checked out Hoher Markt. We went into some shops, everything was bustling as people were trying to finish their shopping to get home for Christmas Eve.  We visited some grocery stores and could not believe the price of produce.  I could get a kilo of apples in Ankara for what a single one cost there. 



We saw the famed clock, but decided not to wait for its figurines to move across the face of the clock to show the passing of time. 


From there we headed to Stephansplatz and saw St. Stephen’s Cathedral.  It was so incredibly large that mist shrouded the upper levels and you couldn’t even see the whole steeple.



We found Stephansplatz, the area around St. Stephen’s Cathedral, to be a little too touristic. 



There were many of the same shops I would see in mall in the U.S. and Ankara.  There were some beautiful buildings, but the men in old fashioned cloaks hawking concerts were a little distracting.


After our walk we wet back to the hotel room, warmed up and relaxed.  Later we went out to the Rathausplatz Christmas Market for some punsch, then had a nice dinner.   Most of the Christmas Markets closed on the 23rd or the 24th, but the Schoenbrunn Palace Christmas Market was still open on Christmas.  We decided to go there for Christmas day.  The Christmas market was lovely and festive.  There were many food vendors and stalls selling souvenirs and gifts.  The Schoenbrunn Palace Museum was open as well.  We had coffee at the café, took a tour through the place and then wandered through the Christmas market buying gifts for family and friends.  There was even a band playing Christmas Carols in the center of the market. 2012-12-25 15.23.00


I have to say it was one of the most romantic and relaxing vacations we have had in a while.  Just the two of us, no distractions, for five whole days. It was also the most Christmassy Christmas I have had in a while.  I definitely think we will try to sneak away for a weekend at the Christmas Markets next year—Maybe it will be our new Christmas tradition! 

I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday season! 

Best wishes for the year 2013!

Hoşgeldiniz to 2013

Welcome to the New Year!  I hope everyone had safe and happy New Years celebrations.  Bülent and I have been so busy lately that we welcomed the New Year from bed, where we had been snuggling and watching movies.  It worked for me!  Start the New Year as you mean to continue right?  I am sure many people are thinking about New Year Resolutions and how to make changes.  I think I am just going to continue the journey I started several months ago, trying to appreciate the good, and live a more balanced life.

It has been a difficult year.  This day last year I was packing my bags to go back to the U.S.  I  had taken a leave of absence due to my father’s health and was supposed to head back at the end of the semester in late January.  I had spoken to my family a couple of days before and I had decided to change my plane ticket on December 30.  It was expensive to change a ticket two days before the flight, but it was the best decision I ever made.  My father’s funeral was on the original date in January on which I was supposed to arrive. 

I had taken the semester off and my school had hired someone to take my place, so I stayed in N.H., grieving and healing with my family.  It was difficult to be separated from my husband for six months, but has changed our relationship for the better.  We are stronger and more united, we know there is nothing we wouldn’t do to help the other…been there, done that.  We have now had bad and trying times and just love each other more for our individual responses to them. 

My time in the U.S. last year was very precious to me.  It allowed me to spend time with my mother while she needed me, and while I needed her.  I was able to get to know my brother as the man he is now, as opposed to the boy he was when I left.  I was also able to get to know his long time girlfriend, who is as lovely inside as she is out.  I went to my college roommate’s wedding and celebrated her happiness with her, and our college friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in five years.   I drove from Texas to New Hampshire, meeting Bülent’s dearest old friends, and visiting mine along the way.   I also went to BlogHer ‘12!

My oldest and dearest friend made me an Auntie—albeit in a terrifying way.  Due to her daughter’s insistence to make a (extremely early) entrance I was able to meet her in the NICU before I came back to Turkey.  

Health wise: Bülent and I went vegetarian (almost six months now) and I joined a gym a few months ago.  The breast lumps have been vanquished—well not vanquished but at least identified as benign.  To top it all off, our dog, Butterfinger, is not letting cataracts get her down.   

The year has been challenging and rewarding.  I am hoping that this next year will be easier, because we kind of need a break.  But we are starting the year off right.  Last year my dad wanted to take our family on a last vacation, a cruise, due to his limited mobility, but he died before we were able.  

Well, we are taking that fucking cruise.  Come January break, my mom, brother and I are going to go.  We are going to celebrate what was, what is and what is to come, because that is what life is all about.  So 2013—bring it on!

An Early Gluten Free Thanksgiving

Last night my friends hosted an early Thanksgiving.  They normally go to Austria for Thanksgiving holiday and celebrate  it the week before.   My friend’s husband was diagnosed with a gluten allergy last year and is still being tested for Celiac disease.  They have transitioned to gluten free living pretty easily, but he has been missing bread.  We also wanted to make sure we could have all the traditional dishes for Thanksgiving, that were safe for him.   My friend is a wonderful cook, but does not think of herself as a baker, so I wanted to test out the recipes before we did it together. 

So a couple of weeks ago I started practicing for Gluten Free Thanksgiving.  I made a loaf of bread using the local Turkish gluten free flour mix.  Thankfully the flour mix also includes xanthan gum.  The bread turned out really well, it was a little eggier than regular bread, but tasted great.  It was also fairly easy to make, I found this recipe to be one of the simplest and was very pleased with it.


My friend and I got together on Wednesday to bake bread for stuffing.  As it had the time before, the bread came out nicely.  While we were baking she asked me to bake the pies for Thanksgiving as well.  I took on the challenge of the GF pies.  However, I have to say, it turned out to be much more difficult than the bread. 

I have been making pie crust from scratch for years, but really had trouble with this.  Perhaps it was the flour.  Many of the gluten free websites specify a mix of certain types of flours, but I only had one option available in the store.  Whatever it was, it was not working.  I could not roll it out.  Different recipes said rather than to roll out the dough, to extrude it, by rolling it between wax paper.  that worked well enough but then I couldn’t get the dough off the wax paper.  It was SOO sticky.   I finally pressed the flour into the pie pan itself, for the pumpkin pie.  I had been planning on making an apple pie as well, but since I could not roll out the dough, I decided on making an apple tart.  I “extruded” the dough using baking paper and managed to scrape it off one of the papers using a sharp knife.  Woot Woot!  Step 1 completed!

Then, using the gluten free base, I followed the recipe from Smitten Kitchen for Apple Mosaic Tart with Salted Caramel.  It came out really well.  I loved the salted caramel with the apples.  I think I will try it with the puff pastry base suggested in the recipe next time. 

We brought both with us last night, and had a delicious and traditional gluten free Thanksgiving.  As always, my friends cooked a beautiful meal, and the company was great!  We had such a lovely time.  This year I am not hosting Thanksgiving, much to Bülent’s relief, but I am very lucky to have such wonderful friends.  I was invited to 3 Thanksgivings this year, unfortunately 2 of them are are at the same time.  We so enjoyed Gluten Free Thanksgiving  last night, and are looking forward to celebrating with a different group of friends next week.

Kurban Bayrami or Eid al-Ahda

This holiday is also known as the Feast of Sacrifice. This is a very important Islamic holiday which celebrates willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his first-born son Ishmael. The sacrifice was not completed as God intervened and had Abraham sacrifice a ram instead. To celebrate people usually a set of new clothes, dress up and visit family and friends and sacrifice an animal.

The animal depends on the weath of the family. Most often it is a goat, sheep or cow. The family keeps a third of the meat, gives a third to family and friends and gives a third the poor. In the country people may do it themselves their yards, but the government sets up sites of trained butchers in many neighborhoods.


On their way to the feast...

This year we celebrated more traditionally than we have for several years. Normally since it’s a long weekend Bülent and I usually travel. This year it was 6 days. We did go to Marmaris, but so did most of the family. So while we enjoyed the sunshine and nature we also celebrated Bayram. In the U.S. often there are celebratory dinners, but here it is ususlly brunches and lunches.


The family got together several times, aunts, uncles and cousins for brunches and luncheons.  It was a nice and casual way to visit.  Since it was happening often I was able to excuse myself when the level of Turkish became too high, rather to sit there bored.  Also the older generation entertained each other. This allowed Bülent and I to have more private time than we might have if we just went down with his parents. 


We had a lovely time and are our way back to Ankara today.  To the real world for a couple of days!

A Date…

Today I had an interview.  I took the semester off to take care of my father.  I was also going to postpone a practicum for my Masters in TESOL.  However, since my father’s death, I don’t need to put off my class.  So today I went to a interview for my practicum.  Though, it is a little less than ideal, since I brought few professional clothes,  and there are very few ELL learners in rural N.H.  The interview went well, and then I went on a romantic date…with myself.  I took a walk in the adorable downtown, and bought some luscious chocolate covered strawberries (for my mom, my brother and his girlfriend and me.)  Later I went to the sushi bar, and had a delicious meal, for one.  It was actually a very nice time.  I am still not really ready to be out and about with people, so this was a lovely way to go out with out social pressure.


Oh Thanksgiving, the ways we celebrate you.  Today I was talking to Bülent and realized that this was our 5th Thanksgiving by ourselves. All of which one I cooked.  If we had been living in the US within a five hour drive of my parents, I would have been a guest, and had been a Thanksgiving Virgin.

However, after I graduated from college I moved to the West Coast, and then to Turkey.

So there is a Thanksgiving Timeline.

2006: Just the two of us!  Small Turkey!

2007: My BFF (since age 5) joins us with her husband.  Thanksgiving and the Beach!  Yay for vacation!

2008: Bad Ass Barraford Thanksgiving.   My cousin Hilary joins me on the West Coast (LA) and we have a rocking Thanksgiving with a party of 12 and clubbing after dinner!


2009: Arrive in Turkey, guests at a co-workers home.  Lovely dinner, great introduction to the world of NO SHORTCUTS cooking.  Want stuffing?  Buy a loaf of bread, cut it up, spice it and make it into stuffing.  Forget anything out of a can, jar or box.  Delicious but time consuming.

2010: Awesome fun but crazy hard. Read above.  Cooked for 18.  18! With Colitis!  Ouch!

2011: We have decided to go for a more intimate Thanksgiving.  I have decided to include one of my favorite recipes before the dinner.  My friend and I have also decided to make it a more intimate Thanksgiving.  When living abroad, some of your friends transcend boundaries and become family, as my kanka (blood sister) has.  I am looking forward to this Thanksgiving, enjoy the prep, the cooking, the eating and the drinking.  There will be just six of us, so it should be relaxing.  As one of the guests of the 2010 Colitis debacle, my friend from upstairs said “ Tell me what to make…or I am not coming!” Yay!   Here is a list!  Let’s all have fun.

Mini-Moons are Awesome

This year for Kurban Bayram we decided to take some time for ourselves.  Usually during the Bayrams Bülent and I normally do things with his family, but this year we decided to do something by ourselves.  We decided on driving down south and having a leisurely tour of the coast.  We headed out of Ankara and spent a night in Pamukkale, then drove to the coast and stayed in Fethiye.  The next day we drove to Kalkan, on the sea, and stayed with some friends at a gorgeous villa, and finally on to Antalya to have a visit with my amazing sister-in-law.  What is great about her is that if I had met her without being married to her brother—I would still hang out with her.

Bülent and I had an amazing time, we just meandered along from place to place, taking scenic back roads and stopping at any historical sight we passed along the way.

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Pamukkale was amazing.  First, the pension we booked was adorable.  Family run, it was clean, restful and had an cozy restaurant out of which they served wonderful food and wine.

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The travertines were amazing.  The thermal waters comes out of the ground and runs over the ridges.  The chemical reaction between the water and the air creates the calcium carbonate.  It was so lovely, on a cool fall day, to walk barefoot on the white terraces, our feet bathed in warm water.

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The pools were a gorgeous shade of blue against the white travertines.  I had expected the terraces to be slippery because they are wet, but the composite of the floor was really solid and not slippery at all.    At the top of the hill there are the ancient ruins of Hierapolis, a city built in the 2nd century for its proximity to the hot springs for their healing properties.

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We had a blast wading around and then exploring the ruins.

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Next stop, Fethiye…