This summer while I was home in the US, I was incredibly busy, scheduled to go here or there almost every day.  One of the things I squeezed into my travels was a trip to Tennessee.  I am very lucky to have two of my best college friends living in the same state. 

I flew down on a Friday, and was supposed to arrive in Nashville at about 4:30 pm, when my friend would be getting off from work.  After a hellish bout of “How long will that delay be?” with U.S. airways I arrived just at 8:30 (EST).  My friend was very patient with the whole situation and entertained with the fun texts from me.

“We are boarding the plane.”  “We are de-boarding the plane”  “We  boarded the plane!”  “We are leaving!” “Just kidding, we are missing paperwork”  “We landed!”   “We have to wait for a gate” “We are going to get off….oh wait…still no gate.”


  After all the delays and waiting on the plane for what seemed like forever (for a gate), we ended up just going down the stairs of the plane and walking across the tarmac to a lower level door to the airport.  Which we could have done when we first landed.  Mmmph.

Despite the inauspicious beginning, the trip was fantastic!  My friend Kate lives in Nashville, the plan was to visit with her, then we would drive down to Memphis to visit our very pregnant friend Katie, or depending on the fates, Katie and her new baby.  

After Kate picked me up from the airport, we stopped by her home to drop my things off before we went out for dinner.  Waiting for us was a package from our other friend friend from college, Katie, who lives in Colorado.  She had sent us a gift basket filled with treats for our visit!  Can you feel the Wellesley love?


The next day we left for Memphis. Memphis is a three hour drive, so we were able to chat the whole way and had a great time.  Katie politely stayed pregnant while we were in town, so that we could catch-up.  I haven’t been able to see my Wellesley friends as often as I would like.  We are scattered all over the US, and living in Turkey complicates visiting even more.  However, when we do get together, it is as if no time has passed.  I am hoping that soon they will plan a trip to visit me!  In Memphis we relaxed, visited, played with Katie’s dogs and took turns feeling her belly when she was having contractions.  Kate started to time them, but then Katie pulled out her phone to do it.  Apparently there is an app for that!  She didn’t have the baby for another week, but we didn’t let that keep us from getting some snuggle time with the baby.  Katie and I were room mates, so she knows I am pretty hands on. 


We drove back to Nashville and the next day we played tourists.  Kate took me downtown to the Honky Tonk bars and the tourist areas.  We wandered around for a while, listening to the country singers preforming on the street.  We went to the Johnny Cash museum as well.  Nashville is fun city, with beautiful green spaces, navigable, a vibrant downtown and nightlife and great food. 

Now when in Tennessee, it is best to stick to local cuisine. BBQ.  Kate knows I love barbeque and went out of her way to create a culinary experience.  They have some of the best barbeque I have tasted, very different from other regions such as New England or Texas.  Here, the pork is cooked slowly until it falls apart, and is served dry.  You can then add BBQ sauce (here with a vinegar base) if you would like. 

Pulled pork dinner from the iconic Loveless Café in Nashville, served with fried green tomatoes.

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Pulled pork tacos with roasted corn from the Acme Feed & Seed in downtown Nashville.

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OHHHHH.  The best BBQ I have ever had is from B&C (full name: Bacon and Caviar). 

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It is not a fancy place, but you wouldn’t want it to be.  They have several locations throughout Nashville.    I loved it, the food was fresh and delicious and the people behind the counter friendly and personable.  I am not that familiar with southern food, and they were very patient with all my food questions, some even unrelated to what they were serving.  At B&C you choose your meat (pulled pork sandwich above) and then your sides.  They had many sides, but I asked the girl behind the counter to serve me what she would have chosen herself.  The sides are squash casserole, a sweet corn and summer squash bake topped with a little cheese, and the grits of the day.  Yes, that is right, grits of the day! They have a different one each day of the week, in addition to the regular cheesy grits.  These were buffalo chicken grits, slightly spicy, with vinegar and bits of chicken.   DELICIOUS!

My trip to Tennessee was one of the highlights of my visit home.  Not only did I get to see TWO of my dearest friends for the first time in years, but I also got to be a tourist in my own country and take in a bit of Southern culture.   I would highly recommend visiting Nashville if you have a chance, even if you are just driving though. 

Wellesley Mini-Reunion! Three 2006ers and a future 2032er!


Birthday Week

Last week was my birthday.  I was very lucky to have many friends who want to celebrate it with me!  Bülent took me out for a lovely romantic dinner.  His gift to me is a romantic trip to Antalya, planned in April when it will be a bit warmer.  Another friend had me over on my actual birthday for a delicious dinner.  We also went over to Bülent’s parents and had a family diner with his parents and aunt an uncle.  His mom knows I love fish and made a special dinner for me. 

The day before my birthday I went out with my friend Terry from Adventures in Ankara, and had an adventure!  We went to Cer Modern, a modern art museum, for lunch.  Lunch was great, the museum very nice, and time with Terry—always fun!  What made our outing an adventure was that we got a traffic ticket!  I was driving and she was navigating from the GPS on her phone.  It told us to take a right, so we did, but turns out it was an illegal right on Ataturk Bulvari.  So we were sitting at the intersection and I was trying to figure out how we were going to make it across the traffic with no light when a police man waved me across.  I was very thankful to make it across in one piece, but then he asked for my license and registration.  We explained we didn’t know the area and were following the GPS.  He nodded knowingly and said, Ah yes, GPS…”   and then gave me a ticket.  It is kind of a novelty.  I don’t know anyone else who has gotten a traffic violation ticket from a real life police man.  It just doesn’t happen here.  Most people get tickets from cameras, even though I have talked myself out of one of those before too.  This office was very polite and apologetic but would not budge.   So ticket it was! 

For my birthday present to myself I made cupcakes.  Two kinds.  The first a carrot cake with labne frosting (tips coming soon on how to substitute Labne for cream cheese) and the second, devil’s food cake with peanut butter frosting.  I have to say, carrot cake is my favorite, but the peanut butter frosting was decadent on the moist chocolate cupcakes. 


It was an amazing week, so filled with friends and family we had to rest all weekend to recover.  It made me feel so appreciated that so many people wanted to celebrate my birthday with me, I definitely have a community here.   It was fun and uncomplicated, my last birthday before marching into my 30’s, which seems a little bit daunting!

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.

Road Trip: The Big One

After our vacation, Bülent and I decided to buy a car in Texas, where the cars have less rust damage from salt and snow.  We would then drive out to New Hampshire in time for Bülent to start his teaching job at the university.  Our plan was to drive from Leave Texas, stop overnight in Memphis, Louisville, northern West Virginia, somewhere in Jersey and end up in New Hampshire.  ScreenHunter_04 Aug. 21 15.32

However, right from the beginning we had some scheduling issues.  Bülent found the car he wanted to buy the night before we leaving for the trip, but it was too late to buy it and take it to get checked out. So early in the morning he went to the dealership, bought the car and took it to the garage.  However, the work it needed, brakes tuned and new tires, took longer than expected.  Instead of getting on the road by 12 and getting to Memphis by 8ish that night, we couldn’t leave until 4.   We were tired, so we stopped in Little Rock, Arkansas around 10 p.m.   We figured we would stop in Memphis to and have an early lunch and visit with my friend from college (hence required stop in Memphis), and have an early lunch.

And that is the day Arkansas became dead to me.  If we had time I would have like to look around the city and check out some Civil Rights museums, but we wanted to get on the road right away.  Bad decision.  The trip to Memphis is normally only 2 and a haf hours, but once we got on the road, we stayed on the road. And stayed on the road.  And stayed. on. the. road.

There had been a traffic accident that morning at 4 a.m. and the eastbound and westbound lanes of the highway were blocked all day. (I can complain about because no one was hurt.)  After several hours f being parked on the highway, we were detoured onto a two lane country highway.  It took eight hours to drive to Memphis.  By the time we got there, we were ready to tear our hair out.  We were trapped all day, had lost an entire day of travel and messed up our schedule.  We decided rather than try to make up time and drive to Nashville, we would stay with our friends in Memphis.   Honestly the thought of getting back into the car made us nauseous.

Good Decision.  We ended up having a great time.  We had a great Tennessee BBQ, and then hung out by the lake with the dogs.  The three dogs, that all have first, middle and last names.  Hee Hee.  It is so funny when my friend Katie calls out their full names with when the puppies are being rowdy.  I would post some adorable photos, but there were some technological issues and our camera ate the pictures.  The next day we woke, rested, with the goal of getting to Louisville for a late lunch and then continuing on to make up lost time.   We had to be in NH by a certain date so Bülent could start teaching his classes.    Next Installment: Day 3 of the Road Trip.  The road to awesomeness…I mean Louisville.

Kaida Rocks the NICU

My friend Sarah is my oldest friend and was the amazing Matron of Honor at my wedding.  We met on the first day of first grade, when she let me sit with her on the bus.  We pretty much have be together ever since.  She is even the one who helped Bülent pick out  my engagement ring.

She was expecting her first baby in September. I joked with her that her timing was bad, since I was leaving the U.S. in August, that she should hurry it up.  I didn’t expect her to take me seriously.

She and her husband, Chris, were originally planning to name their baby Olivia, but changed their minds and decided on Kaida (the Japanese word for “dragon.”)  They made an excellent choice, the name is completely apropos.  Kaida is a damned amazing fighter, something she has shown already.  As her mom says, “Don’t poke the Dragon.” 

Kaida was born a full month early and was a very sick baby.  Sarah was rushed to a hospital over an hour away, that specializes in high-risk births and infant care.   They asked all family members to wait to visit Kaida until the family was home together, but Sarah contacted me and invited me to come meet Kaida before I left for Turkey. 

Being invited by my friends to see them while they were excited and joyful, frightened and in awe of this tiny being they had brought into the world, was incredibly special and a privilege I will never forget.  I can see them now, Chris holding  Kaida, her eyes closed, so tiny and fragile, Sarah gazing at the two of them. Sarah and Chris were madly in love, with Kaida, so much so that their love was almost tangible.

Since Kaida’s birth Sarah and Chris have ben doing anything and everything to help their little girl.  For the last three weeks they have either been sleeping in the hospital or a a dorm nearby.   Thankfully, Kaida has been doing just as much for her parents as they have for her.  Each day she has been fighting, growing stronger and healthier.  The sick baby I saw in the hospital is a far cry from the rosy, alert baby with the chubby checks, in the pictures her mother is emailing me.  She is doing so well, in fact, that she has been transferred to the local hospital NICU, since she is no longer high risk!  Woot Woot!  Kaida Sarah and Chris, Congratulations on your very precious new daughter.  She couldn’t have more kind, amazing parents, ones who even gave her an awesome name to fight with!  Welcome to the world Baby Kaida, clearly you have a sense for the dramatic, but we’ll need to have a serious talk about how it is not polite to rush your mother.

P.S.  Auntie Jules already has started buying adorable stuff to send to her little dragon.

Tales from the Sticks: Not a Carjacking

So this weekend I had some friends come visit me.  One was from Orange County in California and one was from Phoenix, Arizona.  They now live in the big, bad city of Worcester, Massachusetts.   For those of you not from New England it is pronounced “WooStah” not “Worchester.”  I did something this weekend that shocked them.  As in they would only do it with a gun to their head, a.k.a. carjacking.

If we haven’t established it yet, my family’s home in New Hampshire is in the woods, boondocks, sticks,etc.   So, with my city friends in the car, we were on our way home from a larger town, you know…one with stores.  On one of the  back roads on the way back (this one was paved—clearly civilized) I stopped on the side of the road to offer assistance to a broken down car.  His car was pulled up on the side, his hood up.  I pulled up, lowered the window and asked if he needed help.  Sometimes your cell phone is in a black hole, and depending on your provider you may need to drive a few miles for service.

When your car breaks down and you have to hoof it for service to call for help, it makes a nasty day more horrible.  This is why in the winter we carry several down blankets in all of the cars. In case we  need to not freeze to death while waiting for assistance.

This man did not need help, he had already called AAA.  So I wished him a better day than he was already having, and went on my way.  Meanwhile my friends were horrified. They never would have stopped.  Now, if I hadn’t had a full car I would have made sure the doors were locked, and the windows were down enough to talk, but not enough to bust through.  I may be a country girl, but am not a potential victim.  Also, I carry pepper spray.  And though I don’t like guns, I am from NH.  I don’t usually pack, but I know how to shoot a multitude of guns, and calibers.

Later my friends told me how surprised they were by my behavior, actually the term would be horrified.  But, that is what we do in the Sticks, you check on others, in the hope that if you ever need help—someone will offer it to you.  Most likely they will…this isn’t the city after all.  There you never know who will stop.  Yikes!

Wellesley Reunion! It’s like returning to the womb!

This weekend was Wellesley College’s reunion weekend. Every year the first weekend in June Wellesley alums swarm the campus and return to the mothership.  Wellesley the bastion of feminism and sisterhood.  I loved my time at Wellesley, the stimulating classes, the independence, the amazing people I create lifelong friendships with.  Since I could not go, here is an homage to Wellesley!


There were popped collars and fur hats and impromptu mall runs…


Trips through Europe where we stayed in co-ed hostels, had lockers fall on us and were attacked by pirates.  We were so fabulous that since it was cold we would tie our bread and cheese in bags and hang it outside the window to stay fresh.


Beginning of Senior year…


There were hugs and tears and boys and girls and break ups and new relationships.


There was wrestling in Tower Courtyard.

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There was hoop rolling by Lake Waban…


There were mini-reunions in Phoenix and San Diego…

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Mini-reunions in San Francisco

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They are the friends that fly in all over for your wedding.  Who come back early from countries like Japan, who drive up a week early to help your family organize your wedding.


My friends knew I was disappointed I could not go to the Wellesley Reunion so they included me in their celebrations.  My friend Kate printed out a photo of my face and brought me along to the reunion.

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Flat Jules as they called her, had an amazing time at Reunion.

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With friends as wonderful and thoughtful as them it is no wonder that many of my best memories take place on Wellesley’s campus or with the people I met there.



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.

We Rock!

Or at least our party did!  We had a blast, so many of our friends came.  There was good food (I love potluck) and music, as well as liberal drinking, all the makings for a merry time.  Our different groups of friends got along really well and started to make friends with each other.  The party became standing room only, and was generally  fantastic.  Unfortunately we were so busy hosting we forgot to use our camera.  Hopefully some of our friends took pictures and I will share those.

The party was really great because it made it feel like Christmas.  It has been a little difficult for me, as this is my first Christmas away from my family.  The Christmas party was great for two reasons. First it kept me busy, second it was a blast and brought the “feeling” of Christmas.

I have been trying to focus on creating new holiday traditions rather than grieve for the old ones I can not participate in this year due to geography.  For Christmas Eve we went to a Symphony Concert which was really fun.  The music was lovely and it was something to really make the evening feel special. Tomorrow Bulent’s whole family is coming over for dinner.  It will have to be buffet style to accommodate everyone.  While the preparations for hosting  large party then a large dinner party so close together are challenging, it is worth it.  They have been so inclusive of me in their holiday traditions, I wanted to reciprocate and involve them in mine.  Plus it feels more like a holiday when your house is full of people.  Also when there is lots of wine—that makes it holiday-ish too.   Yes, I am Irish.  Can you tell?