Summer Migration

Since I have moved to Turkey, each year I have returned to the U.S. for the summer.  This year was no different, through it seemed to go by very quickly.  When I go home things are usually really busy.  I try to visit as many friends and family members as possible, as many times as possible.  This summer I was also able to attend two great friends’ wedding receptions.

This year was especially busy as we relocated.  I knew when my father died, it would make sense for my mother to downsize sooner rather than later.  The home I grew up in is amazingly beautiful, built in 1880, set deep in the country, with many acres of lawn and gardens and flower beds.   However, it is a large  property to maintain for a single woman.  


The new house she found is great.  Big enough for our family, but small enough for her needs.  There is space for Elliot  when he visits and  for me to maintain migration pattern from Turkey.  It also is 20 minutes closer to the city, and she is practically neighbors with several of her friends.  And wonders of wonders, she is now a FIVE minute drive to a town where there is a grocery store, liquor store and several small restaurants! 


The new place, dubbed “The River House” , is adorable.  Lest you think we are leaving we are leaving the idyllic country for suburbia…there is enough country there to make the transition easy.  Behind the house there is a field of wildflowers and waterfront on a river.   It does not quite compare to the view off the porch of the big house…but little would.


Considering that we moved from a five bedroom Victorian to a two bedroom house the move went surprisingly well.  Between maintaining the yard at the new house, sprucing up the yard at at the old house, the move, two wedding and many visits with family and friends, the summer went by very quickly! 

Last week I completed my migration cycle and returned to Turkey.  I flew in on a Wednesday and the very next day drove down to Marmaris with my father-in-law.  I have about a week left at the summer house, with very limited internet access.  I am using the time to rest and rejuvenate before the school year starts again.   I plan on resuming regular posting once I no longer need to use my cell phone as a portable hot spot.  

School is starting soon or has start already for many. As a teacher, for me the start of the new year is not January, but rather September.  New year, new students, and life goes on.   Enjoy what is left of summer! 

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!

Feeling Better

The last week weeks I have been fighting colds, coughs and fatigue.  While I am still having sleep issues (Friday night I did not fall asleep until 4:30 a.m., the fatigue is better.  I think a lot of it was coming from my immune system fighting off whatever was around.  This weekend I have been dragging a bit, but that is because I decided to do a Juice Fast.  So Saturday and today I have not been eating anything, but just drinking different homemade juices.  I had a lot of fun researching which juices had more detoxifying effects than others.  I did end the fast tonight with a clear veggie soup.  I just didn’t think it it was practical to juice fast at work, and was concerned that I would not have the energy or patience to deal with 12 year olds otherwise.  Though I probably will have juice for breakfast anyway. 

Bülent and I have actually been juicing for a few weeks, we have had a juicer for a couple of years, but only used it occasionally before now.   I have had just juice for breakfast for at least two weeks now.  I really like it and notice that when I am drinking the green juices in the morning I don’t need as much coffee.  My favorite breakfast juice is apple, carrot, spinach and cucumber.  Really refreshing but not too sweet or caloric.  I will post the recipes later, but of the juices I have made, my least favorite was beet and carrot and my most favorite was tomato and spinach.  Though I have to say the cilantro juice is pretty awesome and I love to throw a chunk of ginger in almost any sweet juice! 


I am totally excited because this week is a two day week.  On Wednesday Kurban Bayram starts and we have six days off, so we are going to Marmaris!  It will be gorgeous!  We have several trips planned in the near future, and I am really looking forward to them.  Though Marmaris is always special because we have our own place there.  It makes it so restful, we don’t need to sightsee or explore, we know the area and can just focus on relaxing!

Abundance of Figs

Oh, figs!  My favorite summer fruit.  Fresh figs are best enjoyed when they almost look too soft to eat.  Stay away from the firm ones.  Look for the figs that are starting to split at the bottom..just barely.  Sometimes there will be a tiny glistening drop emerging from the star shaped fissure, that means it is perfectly ripe.  The issue with figs is that many ripen at the same time, and if you eat too many you will clean your system right out, whether you want to or not?  So what to do with over-ripe figs?  A little too mushy eating means great for cooking.  Jams, compotes, breads, wherever you can put fruit you can use figs.

This morning I used them in pancakes.  The pancakes themselves had  a mixture of ripe peaches and figs in them.  I roughly chopped the over-ripe figs and threw them in a saucepan with a little water and lemon juice while I was cooking the pancakes.   I used the fig compote as a syrup for the pancakes.  I have to say, for a 20 minute cooking project (only as long as it took to mix and cook the pancakes) the results were delicious.  20120822_130246

In Turkey, fruits and vegetables are rarely available while out of season.  This can be a little disappointing when you are craving a particular dish, but in reality creates a smaller carbon footprint and is better for the environment.  This means that will there is only about a four week window for figs, during that time the figs are fresh and delicious, abundant and cheap.  While I would love figs all year long, they seem just a little bit sweeter since they are so special now.


In Turkey brown road signs signify historical sites.  Bulent and I have a dream where one day we can take a road trip and follow every brown historical road sign that tickles our fancy.  Well, when we were in Marmaris we were able to do just that, which lead us to the Ancient city of Amos, situated on Asarcık hill, above Kumlubük bay, near the town of Turunç.

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To reach the ancient city, walk through the fragrant olive trees…

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Climb up to the top of Asarcık hill…

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Past the ruins of the city walls…August2011 015

To where the city overlooks the sea on three sides, built on top of a spit of land protruding into the bay…

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There are several sections of ruins of up the hill, including some residential areas, an amphitheater, and the walls of the ancient citadel.

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We had a great time following the brown historical road sign, and hope that there are many more in the future.

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Trip to Datça

The other day the whole family took a trip to the nearby town of Datça.  It is about an hour down the peninsula.  The ride is spectacular, through the mountains with the Aegean on one side and the Mediterranean on the other.  We just wanted a change and to do a little sightseeing.  Datça is harder to get to a much more isolated than Marmaris.  While it does have a tourism trade the town is less built up, with fewer bars, and none of them blasting dance music to attract business.  In our mind this was a big attraction.  There were some lovely natural food stalls, where we bought some yummy raw almonds, organic capers and this lovely treat.

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Translated it is “Sugar Almonds.”  It reminded me of a lighter version on peanut brittle with fresh almonds.  Delicious.  After walking about the town, we headed back to the harbor, hungry and thirsty.  One of Datça’s mainstays is fishing, so we had to stop by and grab some fresh fish…and cold beer.

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There were quite a few things on the menu, but we saw the sardines get carried off the boat right in front of us, which made it easy to order.  I loved that they fileted each one and removed the head and the spine.  I am not a huge fan of eating bones, even in little fish, and end up spending a lot of time picking them out.

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We had a lovely time, and then headed back to our Marmaris…

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We spend the night reading with wine and beer in the garden, enjoying those mountain breezes.

Oh The Time of The Fig!

We have been vacationing in Marmaris for about a week now (more on that later).  Now, we are here at a delightful time, the TIME OF THE FIG!  There is nothing better and sweeter than a nice juicy ripe fig.  There are trees all over the place here, lining the streets, laden with ripe heavy juicy figs.  The best figs are the ones that look like they have gone bad.  See that one there..

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The bottom has started to split.  It will be soft to the touch and if you gently squeeze it a little drop of juice will start to bulge out.  PERFECT.

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I am eating figs left and right.  Figs with breakfast, figs as a snack, figs with wine in the garden.  They do not sell them out of season, and the ones they ship to Ankara are not as nearly as tasty as the slightly misshapen ones from the garden here.   Oh the figs!

Welcome to the New-ish Year!

I am a little late for the obligatory New Year post, but I have good reasons.  We spent New Years Eve with some very good friends of ours.  It would have been a lovely evening if I had not been huddled under a blanket, drinking herbal tea, being miserable and running a fever.  We stayed until midnight and then headed out.  Bulent tucked me into bed and took care of me for the next couple of days.  I feel much better now, but was really out of it for a week and a half.  I had sort of gotten better but talking (and yelling) at children for seven hours a day really slows down the healing of a sore throat.  I actually sound pretty sexy—if you like a raspy low pitched growl.  Bulent thinks it is cute. 

I was also dealing with the loss of my laptop.   My hard drive crashed.  I lost a little data but I had backed up a few weeks ago.  Luckily, I had it back within a week all fancy and like new.    I replaced the hard drive with a larger one and upgraded from Windows Vista to Windows 7.  So yay!

The new year also started a new adventure…A Masters!  I found a great distance program through a public university in the States.  So that has started and I have completed my first Saturday of homework.  Whee…Graduate level education, here I come. 

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.

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.”