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!

Romantic Getaway: Büyükada

Bülent wanted to make my last weekend in Turkey special, and so planned a lovely getaway for us.  We drove up to Istanbul and took a ferry to Büyükada (Big Island.)  It is the largest island in the Princes’ Island group in the Sea of Marmara.  The ferry ride was only about 20 minutes, and then we were there!

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There are no cars allowed on the island except for emergency vehicles.  People, who don’t wish to walk, zip around on bikes, or ride in horse drawn carriages.

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There were many beautiful old mansions and houses with sea views.  Walking around there was something lovely in every direction.

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We had a great time there. There were no cars—so no traffic.  It was very relaxing to have no place to go, nothing more important to decide than which of the water front restaurants we would eat at.  We just sat at the water, watched the sun set and meandered off to dinner.  Certainly a romantic evening!

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I can’t wait to go back!

Ode to a Man

My brother Elliot is a MAN.  Clearly he is a man, but now he is super macho.

EllHe is in his early 20’s, so he’s no boy.  He has always worked and studied hard. He has always dealt with difficult situations well, and has taken care of any shit that has come his way.   On Saturday he did both of those things, literally.   Friday night our septic system failed, and we were reduced to pre-indoor plumbing circumstances, or as my husband would say “sub-optimal.”

So on Friday –I went down to the basement where I discovered the extent of the “situation”—which was all over the floor.  After that, Elliot and I promptly uncovered the septic tank, we thought it looked kind of full.  We thought maybe that was why when the toilets flushed, it dumped in the basement instead of the septic tank. However, it was not the tank, it turns out the pipe leading from the house to the tank was pinched.

So, Saturday while my mother and I had an early Mothers’ Day visit with my Nana—Elliot took care of the “situation.”  What I mean by that is that he spent all day digging up the broken pipe, which also included shoveling out a hole filled with human waste.   Anybody who can do that is an adult, so for him,  he is a MAN. For Mother’s day he gave my mother her indoor plumbing back, kind of hard to top that one.   Also, I was pleased to have it back myself.  Yay for flushing!

Romantic Getaway: Bolu

One of the romantic weekends Bülent and I planned was to Bolu.  We had an amazing time, but it wasn’t actually in Bolu.  We had planned to stay in the Bolu city area and take day trips to Abant Gölü and Yedigöller, however the place we stayed was actually two hours from both, in Bolu province.  In the end it all worked out, and we had a wonderful time.   The drive there was very pretty.  There was still snow on the hills lining the freeway!

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We arrived at Hindiba Pansiyon, an ecofriendly resort with small bungalows.  It was really lovely.  The bungalows and outdoor tables straddled a clearing in the woods which a creek ran through.  There was a full service restaurant, and breakfast and dinner were included in the price of the bungalow.  The eals were great, produced with locally available foods.

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There were two types of bungalows, stone and wood. I would recommended the stone. The wood bungalow was very cozy, with not much floor space, but since we were on a romantic weekend, the size of the bungalow didn’t really matter.

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We relaxed, read, rested and took walks.  The best part of walking was that immediately after leaving the pension we were deep in the country.

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We did take a day trip to Gölcük, a small lake up in the mountains of Bolu.  The drive was gorgeous, and once we got there—there was water!  That is always a focus for people who live in Ankara.  Water, since our city is sort of arid, we all prefer vacationing in areas that are lush and green, preferably with a body of water nearby.  In this respect Hindiba was perfect for our needs.

Even though it was not what we were expecting, we had a great time.  The focus was on time together anyway.  It wouldn’t have mattered if it was a dive motel—but that is a post for next time…

Romantic Getaway: Safranbolu

I have been in the U.S for the last three months, so when I flew back to Turkey for a few weeks, Bülent and I decided to plan some romantic weekends away.  So far we have been having a great time.  We decided to head to Safranbolu.  It is an easy three hour drive from Ankara.  After getting there we grabbed some lunch at Hanim Sofrasi.  I am a sucker for women-run establishments in Turkey.  This was pretty typical.  An older woman was supervising while her daughters, and maybe sisters or sisters-in-law (not sure which) cooked the food.  What was unusual was that while the matriarch sat outside smoking and chatting with tourists, her husband was the waiter, taking orders and running food out.  He only joined  his wife for a cigarette after all his work had been finished!

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We had “Safranbolu Manti” or “Peruhi.” Instead of your typical meat filled bites, they were more like triangular ravioli, very thin pasta filled with a white cheese or maybe yogurt.  However, while eating them I detected a floral note, I am not sure, it could have been a hint of saffron or maybe a spice.  Either way, it was a little different and delicious.

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After our lunch we walked around and stopped at Cinci Han, it is a old Caravanserai stop on the Silk Road.  Built in the 17th century it is now a hotel and a café.  You can still see the old iron rings where they used to tie the camels.

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There is a tower, which they allow you to climb with refreshingly few safety precautions.

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Safranbolu is a fairly small town, with quite a few pazars, however the really lovely part is just outside of the main square.  There are many old Ottoman houses, many of which are charming private residences rather than just hotels.  Safranbolu also has many streams and rivers which run through it and have carved canyons and ravines.  This particular camii (mosque) was built over a small river.  As a place of worship, one that spans running water and you can listen to the gurgle of it over stones while you pray—seems like a great idea—not that I would know much about prayer or worship.

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Along the same stream were many little gardens squeezed between the retaining walls and the water.

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During our walk we saw some local children  climbing a beautiful grassy hill.  So like any well adjusted adults, we were jealous and climbed it too.  We had a blast, and the kids thought we were pretty funny too.

It is the little things…

I moved to Turkey almost 3 years ago, leaving behind almost all my my personal possessions in San Diego CA. This was really difficult.  After I graduated from college Bülent and I moved to San Diego, and slowly started accumulating the things you need to make a house a home.  A bed.  A couch.  Kitchen accessories.  We could not afford to ship everything, so we left it behind and donated it to a very worthwhile charity.  Some of the things I still miss.  One of them is my first “grown up” purchase I paid for all on my own, a red leather (pull out) couch and matching chair.

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I also miss my kitchen accoutrement, especially the cast iron pan and griddle I bought.   Now, I could buy cast iron while I am in the states and bring it over here, but it is just too heavy.  Cast iron is not as popular here, and I can not find some of the things I have been looking for, such as a 12 inch cast iron fry pan, and the Holy Griddle…I mean Grail.    I love a big, two burner cast iron griddle, just like my mom had. Not only was it handy, but every time I use one I think of her and of cooking in our family kitchen.   I have not been able to find anything like it.  The closest thing was a little like this, and an arm and a leg.

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But that is not THIS…

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The cast iron griddle is great, for pancake and French toast, and really anything that needs a larger surface area.  Also, the grill side is great for the inside-grilling of fish and chicken and especially veggies.  You can use it to grill eggplant and make a super low fat eggplant parmigiana, with no frying at all.

Anyway, the other day, one of these cast iron griddles fell into my lap!  My kanka Terry pulled one out her her cupboard and handed it to me.  She said he had been feeling guilty owning it after I had been expounding about my search for the Holy Griddle.   No guilt needed to be felt, but then again she is Catholic, so it could have been that. *wink wink*  But since she has given it to me I have used it once or twice a week.  Once for a grilled hot salad with zucchini, eggplant, tomato, onion and cauliflower with a garlic and rosemary infused olive oil rub which was awesome.  This morning I made super yummy whole wheat pancakes.    So now I own a little piece of home, and when I whip out my cast iron griddle, I think about my mom, and now also Terry.

***Terry—I will have you over for brunch and use the griddle as part of the payment installment. There will be bacon.

LASIK Shout Out!

Traditionally after the wedding the bride and groom exchange gifts.  Or so I was told.  So for my gift, my new beloved husband told me he would finance my LASIK surgery.  YAY!  My eyes are horribly myopic, around –3.75 plus astigmatism.  His gift was perfect.  We both can’t wait.  However, since it is my EYES and if we mess it up there could be serious complications, we have proceeded cautiously.

Hospital #1: Super Shiny!  Clean and New!  Expensive and commercial.  We felt that they did not care about safety as much as money.  They wanted to give me LASIK after only one week of not wearing contacts.  I have been wearing soft contacts for 10 years, seven days a week, 15-18 hours a day.

Hospital #2:  Our new doctor is SUPER conservative.  Maybe too much!  He saw me (after not wearing contacts for two weeks) and said at least one month later.  So today I go in—after not wearing contacts for six weeks.  (Side note:  I hate wearing glasses) He wants to wait six more months of no contacts before the surgery.  That seems excessive to me—what about you?  All the research I have done says that before LASIK you cannot wear soft contacts for two weeks, toric for a month and hard lenses for a month for every decade you wore them!   Am I mistaken?  I really don’t want to wear glasses for six more months if I don’t have to, but I also don’t want to ruin my eyesight.

Any suggestions?

We are going to Hospital #3 tomorrow.

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. 

Trip to Niğde

A few weeks ago we took a trip to Niğde, where my husband’s mother is from. Niğde is know for its apple production, and his family owns a small apple orchard down there. We were going to watch the harvest. We drove down Saturday and were greeted by chilly weather and rain. We did manage to see Kapadokya’s most intact and well preserved Byzantine Monastery, Gümüşler Monastery. After trudging around in the freezing rain seeing the historical site for several hours, we had a lovely dinner with some extended family.

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In Niğde in mid-October there was already snow on the mountains. Niğde is nestled into the plains surrounded by inactive volcanic mountains.

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When wewere there we were supposed to go to the apple orchards and watch the harvest, but we ran into some trouble. We spent the afternoon in a small village looking for a mechanic, then for a tow truck.

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While we were waiting I took a look around the village.

We saw puppies…we always do.

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Plums drying in the sun.

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Farmers harvesting cabbage.

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That last photo was taken from inside the car on the top of the tow truck. We needed a new radiator and by the time it was fixed it was time to head back to Ankara. It was a whirlwind trip. While we did have some fun we have since decided that we will save trips of five hours of driving or more for long weekends only.

No Internet Connection = Irregular Posting

We won’t have internet for the rest of the month.  So posting may be spotty.  That is fine since it gives me the opportunity to post wedding porn!

So the lowdown on the wedding…It was fantastic!

We had a fairly small wedding on the lakeside.  The actually ceremony was under a tent on the shore and the reception was nearby at the boathouse on the same property. We had a small wedding party, just the matron of honor, the best man and a flower girl.  We wrote the ceremony, which included a ring warming, and the whole thing lasted about seven or eight minutes. 

My friends were amazing.  I had one friend drive up from Kentucky the Monday before the wedding (which was on a Saturday.)  My friend spent the week doing laundry and yard work and anything else that we asked, to help prep for the wedding.  My other friends all helped out and decorated the boathouse for the wedding. 

My matron of honor was amazing.  Not only did she arrange the shower and help with invitations and make my jewelry for the wedding, but she also hosted another one of my friends from out of town.  Her husband actually drove two hours to the airport to pick my friend up.  My friends are wonderful and I am so lucky.

There was one small hitch.  My Matron of Honor got a flat tire on the way to the wedding.  She calls, says she already has the tire iron out and shouldn’t be more than 15 minutes late, just then in the background I hear “That’s a might pretty dress…”  Some boys stopped and helped her and she was only 10 minutes late. It worked out fine.  While we were waiting for her I shoved my future sister-in-law out of the limo to start the ring warming so the guests would get too antsy.  Enough with the talking though….Wedding Porn.

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Nazar Boncu pinned to my dress

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My brother and me at our home.

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My parents, brother and me at the house.FIRST KISS

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Walking out as husband and wife. (Music: Signed, Sealed, Delivered by Stevie Wonder)

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Walking to the boathouse with my men.

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Wedding cake, which my mother and I made.  She has the skill, I just helped. 

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  View from the boathouse.

More photos coming later, including tales from the Morning After Brunch.  That’s right, my mom threw an after wedding brunch for 75 people and cooked it all herself. And it was tasty!