Surprise!

I am still trying to catch up on back posts from Kurban Bayramı.   I have been a bit behind and was a little tired last week, but for a great cause.  I flew home to surprise my mother on her birthday…for the weekend.  Yes. The Weekend.  It was epic.

My mother was throwing herself a birthday party, celebrating her new life and new start.   I really wanted to be there.   As an expat you get used to missing the birthdays and other important events like weddings, reunions and births, but you still wish you were there.   I missed my grandmother’s 100th birthday party last month.  I decided this time it was worth it to make the trip.

My brother was my partner in crime.  We arranged the pickup and the meeting.  I was supposed to fly into Logan at 1:30 pm Friday, take the bus to Concord and meet my mother for dinner.  Timing was crucial because I was going to get there Friday afternoon and fly out Sunday afternoon.   But the Airplane Gods were against me.  I almost didn`t make it.

I got to the Esenboğa airport at 3:30 am.  I was in line at 3:45.  The third in line to be exact.  The Lufthansa employees said they would start checking us in at 4 am.  At 5 they were still unable to boot up the computers.  After a change of computer venue, a race and a blood bath to get in line AGAIN, I was checked in.  Then I waited some more.  We were delayed and I almost missed my flight.  Actually EVERY flight was delayed.  By the time I got to Boston Logan I had missed my bus, but I knew it left Logan and went to South Station before it left for NH.  I ran to a taxi and made my bus with 1 minute to spare!

Once on the bus I was finally able to relax.  I was almost there!  My brother picked me up, and we went to the restaurant he had arranged to meet my mother at for her birthday dinner.    When she came in, she was shocked.  She actually didn’t know what to say.  The first thing she said was, “Why are you here?”  Ouch!  But by the time we had dinner and the shock wore off.  She was really surprised, and really happy.

Saturday was surreal, we went out for a jog and then prepped for her party.  I was given a list and sent to the grocery store, it was just like a normal visit.  I loved every minute of it.  Of course the party was a blast.  Old friends, new friends and neighbors came.  Everyone had a great time, especially my mother.  Sunday we met my brother for lunch and then did some shopping and went to the buys station.  I hate leaving, every time it is very difficult.  The worst time is the couple of hours before you get to the bus station or airport, when you can`t pretend you aren`t leaving anymore but the leaving part is not final.  Waiting in the airport is less sad, plus there is wine there.

It was a whirlwind trip and I was certainly tired when I went to work the morning after flying in at midnight the night before.  But it was absolutely worth it.  To be able to celebrate with my mom, to have that time with her was amazing.  Happy birthday mom!  I hope this year is the first of many that are fantastic, full and exciting!

Foça

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.

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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. 

Nana, A Centenarian

Born October 5, 1913, she immigrated to America on the SS Carpathia with her parents and three of her six siblings (the others were yet to be born).  They arrived on December 2th,1919 on the SS Carpathia.

Nana

She moved to England in her twenties and worked as a companion to an elderly woman.  She joined Women’s Royal Air Force just a week after Sarah Churchill, in 1941.  She met my grandfather and married him in 1942.   She had almost completed her first BA, but her college in London had been hit by the Blitz and all records were lost.  She was told if she could find three professors to vouch  for her, the school would transfer her credits.  Unable to do this, she began again when she relocated to the U.S.

After she moved back to the States, she had six children, two are still living.   Of those who have died one was a twin who was stillborn, two died in their twenties, and my father who died almost two years ago.

During this time she finished her second B.A. completed a M.A. a M.F.A. and a Ph.D.  She has written several books, contributed many articles to the MetroWest Daily News and painted many beautiful pieces of art. 

An amazing storyteller, for decades she has regaled us with tales of her life and our heritage.  Stories of her family, about putting out magnesium bombs in London during WWII, and of our ancestors in Roman times. 

NANA NORA

 

Happy Birthday to Nana, someone who enriches us with her presence, wisdom and we are lucky to have in our lives.  If you have met or know Nana, feel free to call or send a card.  I am sure she would love to hear from you.  If you need her number or address please contact me. 

Jalapeño Pepper Jelly

I love hot pepper jelly.  It is great served with cream cheese (or labne) on crackers.  It also is a nice addition to vinaigrettes.  There is a permanent link to the recipe under Close to the Kitchen –>Appetizers

 

Pepperjam

Ingredients:

12 oz. jalapeño peppers (about 12 medium or 16 small)
2 cups of apple vinegar (apple cider vinegar in the U.S.)
5 cups sugar
1 25g bag of Dr. Oetker Reçelyap
5 (8 oz) half pint glass preserving jars with fresh lids (usually available at the pazars or at the Japon Pazari)

Directions:

1.) Get your water canner boiling (I just use a REALLY HUGE pot).

2.) Sterilize your jars and lids in simmering water. Do not boil.

3.) Seed the peppers (leave some if you like it spicy) and then puree the peppers in food processor or blender.  I like to use a mix of colors and leave some chunks for visual interest.

4.) Combine the pepper puree with the 2 cups of cider and bring to a simmer.

COMBINE purée with remaining 1 cup cider vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

4.) Add Dr. Oetker Reçelyap.  Continue to boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add food coloring, if using, and skim foam if necessary.

5.) Pour hot jelly into jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.

6.) Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.
Note: When cutting or seeding hot peppers, wear rubber gloves to keep your hands from being burned.

Back to Ankara

We came back to Ankara the Saturday before school started.   We had been away from the house for so long there was a lot to do, cleaning, food shopping, and getting ready for work the next day.  Since we went vegetarian we pack our lunches, so we also had to do some food preparation.   Due to the time constraints, it took a while to get back into the normal swing of things.  But by last weekend we were back, and by that, I mean I was back at the pazar. 

 

pazar

 

I wanted to make some hot pepper jelly, and found a great hot pepper stand.  I spent quite a while tasting this pepper and that pepper.  I  bought some really spicy green peppers and he gave me quite different kinds to try.  Just as I was leaving I realized there was another type of pepper at the stand.  I hit the  jackpot!  He had a couple of plastic tubs of fresh jalapeños!  Normally you can only get jalapeños pickled, which do not have the full flavor of fresh.  I immediately started picking out the best ones, and chatting with him about the peppers.  The pazarci gave me some more peppers as gifts (probably five different types), and then a mandarin orange as he was concerned about how many hot peppers I had tasted.  I told him about my plans to make hot pepper jelly and he was very interested.   We talked some more and then I headed off to scour the pazar for the best figs for jam. 

 

Peppers

 

Yesterday I got around to making the jalapeño pepper jelly.  I haven’t tasted it yet, but at least it jelled, so that is a step in the right direction.  Yum!  I can’t wait to try it with some labne.  I left some seeds in so it actually should be pretty spicy. 

 

Pepperjam

It only took two weeks for life to get back to “normal” in Ankara.  I am glad we got there because our schedules are pretty packed for the next two weeks.  Bülent’s sister is getting married  this month.  She is doing the nikah (legal marriage contract) with her friends and co-workers in Antalya next weekend, and the weekend after that is having the reception in Ankara.  We are looking forward to celebrating both with her. 

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.  

HOUSE

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! 

house 

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.

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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! 

War of the Aphids!

A few weeks ago, my flowers were looking a little droopy, so I gave them so flower food.  Then we went away for a few days and when I returned…Aphids had taken over.   aphids2

There were black ones ALL over my chrysanthemums and little green ones all over my petunias.  The internet said to spray them down with a hose…except my are on the balcony, and then treat them with some anti-aphid spray. 

What I ended up doing is treating the infected flowers with a spray of water, oil and soap.  Then, I hauled all the flowers, one at a time…into my tub.  That’s right, each one of my flowers was given a spray down in my tub.  The only option for a high pressure wash.  I then quarantined the infected flowers on my second balcony.  The flowers were treated to three rounds of the water/oil mix and tub spray.  It has been a couple of weeks now, and it seems like the aphids have been defeated.  My goal was to have the plants healthy by the the time I left for the U.S. for the summer, so that my friend’s maid who is watering them, would be able to take care of them easily.   Knock on wood…but it looks like it happened right on time.  I leave tomorrow. 

Birthday Week!

My birthday was in March, but Bülent “gave” me my present a few days ago.  We flew to Antalya for the weekend!  It was a whirlwind trip but we enjoyed ever minute of it.  We flew in Friday night and visited my sister-in-law, who recently got engaged.  It gave us a chance to meet her fiancé before the wedding in September.  Saturday morning we left the city of Antalya for what has to be one of the most scenic drives in Turkey, full of cliffs, rocky beaches and dazzling blue sea. This area is one of the only places in Turkey you can get blue crab, so for lunch we stopped at a seaside restaurant. 

Fresh grilled crab!

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We followed the coast to Demre, and then climbed up into the mountains.  Bülent surprised me with a night in a gorgeous B&B.  High up in the mountains, with a view of the sea, it felt like a different world.  The hotel, Hoyran Wedre, is in a remote, small köy.  Its grounds were scented with with rosemary, thyme and sage which were planted all over the place. 

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The hotel is actually located right on the Lycian Way, so we hiked part of it that afternoon, and the next morning.  As if we could resist. 

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It wasn’t hard to navigate, along the trail of the Lycian Way there are red and white tags showing the way. 

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The village of Hoyran is very isolated and remote, with a very long history.  Over time, many tribes and cultures migrated through this area which created an complex linguistic situation.  The villagers have their own dialect, as well as Turkish.  Their language is a mix of an accent and a dialect, and while some things are understandable, and others are not.

The scenery was amazing.  Yes, these goats are actually eating a field of flowers.  We met the shepherd, who told us that some days he walks 30 km herding his sheep.  Though he assured us that the goats didn’t need him to find their way, his job is to keep away the wolves and keep them out of fields.  He told us about Antalya’s flora, boasting that his goats’ milk and meat was especially tasty due to their diet of wild herbs.  He quoted an old saying,“Antalya’nın taşı toprağı altın” (Antalya’s rocks and soil are golden).  We were informed that during his military service he traveled all over Turkey and never saw anywhere that rivaled Antalya’s fertile land or botanic diversity.

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We had a great time talking to the locals and hiking in search of ancient ruins.  We didn’t have to look too hard for this cistern, it is right on the village road. 

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It was an amazing birthday present, and very memorable for my last birthday of my twenties.   The area was so scenic and beautiful I felt rested just being there. 

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Next year…the big 30!

Lost and Found

Several times recently I have gotten lost on my way somewhere.  I got the directions confused and ended up having no idea of where I was.  I had two options, go with it or turn around go back and start stressing.  In years past I would have done the latter, however, one of the things I am better at now is the former. 

In Turkey this is important.  Sometimes when you are doing something, whether it is driving, paperwork, trying to get something done, there are obstacles.  But getting tense about it will not help. TRUST ME!  My husband likes to say the F-Word in Turkey is “Flexibility.”  One has to be flexible to get stuff done. 

So when I was lost, I just kept driving.  One of the great things about driving in Turkey is the road signs.  Not the street signs, you could die of old age looking for a particular street.  But the road signs are great, they are all over the place and direct you to different neighborhoods.  Most people know how to get around then they are in a neighborhood, the hard part is getting there. 

In this sign the white signs are to neighborhoods, the blue to a different city.  The blue sign will take you to a highway.  Another thing about Turkey is there is no East/West North/South Highway nonsense.  The highways are designated by the major city they go to.  For example, for this highway, one direction is called Konya Road, the other Samsun Road.  This is helpful for people (me) who get their directions mixed up. 

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So when I get lost, I just keep driving and look for the road signs.  The other day when I was completely lost, I ended up right where I wanted to be.  Funny how that happens.