Monday, May 31, 2010

Alara and her Dede

Alara's Turkish grandfather is her dede. Alara loves him very much. During the week he stays at our house to help my mother in law take care of Alara. Sometimes he goes out and brings her home little treats. A new notebook to colour in, or some fresh orange juice. In the winter they can often be seen in local cafes around the neighbourhood drinking tea.

At the weekend she loves going to dede's garden We take her out to their home and she can run around, play with the other children on the street and explore the garden. For a kid living in an apartment building, this is the greatest place on earth. She spends the entire week waiting for the weekend.

Dede has now got Alara helping him in the garden. She helps him water the trees, and pick the fruit that is ripe. She digs holes for him (even if he doesn't need them) and when they are done, he hangs a swing up from a tree for her and they have a great time.

I'm not really sure who this move will be harder on Alara or Dede?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Fish Allergy Friendly Vegeterian Sushi

Many of you may or may not know that I am very allergic to fish and seafood, therefore I have never eaten sushi. I know what you might be thinking, why don't you just have vegetarian sushi, but after looking all through the Internet, I have learned that I also should not be eating seaweed because of the risk of cross contamination.

With Seyfi having Celiac, sushi is something that he can easily eat, so I thought, why not kill two birds with one stone and try to make sushi at home that both of us could enjoy.

We made the rice together, and it was good, sweet and sour. It was sticky and shiny, just like the recipe said it should be. We made nice little pads of rice, they stuck together beautifully, but...

I'm not sure it turned out right, is sushi suppose to taste like a ball of vinegary rice with something on top? Because I don't like rice that much, and maybe that would explain why I wasn't a big fan.

Seyfi did say that he thought it was better with fish, and yes, I did only make carrot, lettuce and cucumber sushi (we couldn't find avocado anywhere). I realize that I also need to get some wasabi and pickled ginger. But will all of that really improve the fact that I am eating a rice ball?

I'm not giving up on this though. I'm going to find a way to make maki rolls (any suggestions?) and I'm going to find some more toppings (any suggestions).

Saturday, May 29, 2010

He's back!

After three weeks of being away, Seyfi is finally back from his course in Izmir. You have know idea how happy all of us are! Alara has someone to run around and be crazy with, and I finally have my husband back.

I know that Seyfi is glad to be back too. Besides the obvious missing us part, I think he is also glad to be home and eating his fresh made gluten free products (done by moi!). This morning he was so happy that he ate an entire plate of gluten free pancakes!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Favourites- To kill a Mockingbird

In honor of its fiftith anniversary, this week I am going to write about one of my favourites, the Puliter Prize classic, 'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee. This book also went on to be the fantastic, Oscar winning movie starring Gregory Peck.

The story centres around the Finch family, Atticus, Jem and Scout, and the people in their small southern town during the Depression. More specifically during a race trail in which the father, Atticus, is defending a black man.

I first read the book when I was in high school, and loved it. I think that it is a story about children learning what the world around them is really like. About stepping out of the world of imagination and into the world of reality. The role that each of the character plays, shows how truly intertwined everyone within a community is.

So, on its fiftith anniversary I am suggesting that you read, or re-read To Kill a Mockingbird.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Something I love about Turkey- Linden Tea

I'm ill today. I have got a cold. I'm pretty sure I got it from Alara, who probably got it from some kid at the park. She's better now, but I'm suffering.

I woke up this morning with a nose running like it was it's job and a really sore throat. I drank a cup of tea and ate my breakfast, and the sore throat only got worse. When I got to work I ordered a Linden Tea from the tea guy, and as soon as I drank it, the sore throat was gone. What is this magically brew?

I had never heard of it before I got here, and now I swear by it, I've even got my dad hooked. (He had found a place in Canada that sold it, but they don't carry it anymore, so I bring it to hime whenever I visit.) In the winter I drink it every day, and rarely get sick. In the past, because I talk so much at work I use to have awful sore throats all winter, but for the past three years, since starting this daily routine, I just don't have a problem in the winter anymore. (Thank goodness!)

At my work, they make the best Linden tea- usually it has a rather bitter taste, but they add cinnamon sticks and quince tree leaves when they are brewing it (well, that's what they tell me) and serve it with a lemon. It really is the best.

I wonder if I will be able to find it in Belgium?

By the way, I study French for forty five minutes today. What do they say it takes three days to make something a routine? or is that only for babies?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Nine weeks...

There are lots of things to do before moving to a new country, and something that I have been putting off for a very long time is re-learning French. I use the term re-learning very loosely, as I'm pretty sure I never learned it in the first place. I studied French up until grade ten, and I know that something went in, but I don't trust it to carry me very far in Belgium.

I remember when I first came to Turkey, I didn't even know one word of Turkish. In Turkey though it was never a problem, even if there was no one around who could speak English, even if you just tried to string two words together, you got a kind smile and general what you were asking for.

However, I don't want to have to start from zero again. I really do need to start working this. The problem is that I am a really lazy student. (The complete opposite of my husband.)

I studied both Spanish and German in university and didn't get too far. With Turkish, even after my husband gave me some basic grammar rules, it wasn't until I lived with my mother in law, and worked at with people who didn't speak any English that I finally started to get it.

I know that I should just get started, so I am putting it out there, I am going to start studying French tomorrow, I am going to be a hard working student, and I am going to be ready for our big move in nine weeks. Check in on my again before we leave, I promise I will have learned something!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Alara and her balls

One of Alara's first words was ball. It is a word she says about a hundred times a day. She loves playing with balls. She plays soccer and basketball, she throws and rolls balls, she kicks and chases after balls. It is so adorable. She definitely has some athletic genes in her that come from her father, not me.

At a few of the shopping centres around town there are play areas that have ball pits (like the one in the picture). These ball pits combine Alara's two favourite play things, balls and slides. She absolutely loves sliding into balls.

She loves these places so much that now if we go to one of these shopping centres the first thing she wants to do is go and play with the balls. I love seeing her having fun.

The thing that is really interesting about ball being one of her first words is how she reacts to the word. We live in a bilingual house. Seyfi and I both speak English and Turkish. He always speaks in Turkish to her, and I always speak in English. Seyfi's parents are learning English at the same time as Alara, so obviously they are always speaking Turkish. However, with the word ball (and there are many others), Alara decided that for at least a year she was only going to call it a ball and never a 'top' (which is Turkish).

She called it a ball to everyone, her grandparents, children in the park, other adults, and rarely did they understand, but she kept going and a ball was what it was. It has only been this last week, that she has started calling it a 'top' to people who she seems to know won't understand.

This is a huge step in her language development. She has always known that with me she should use the English word (if she knew it), and for a long time she was just choosing to use the shorter or easier word. Now, we are seeing her switch back and forth between the two languages, and it is amazing!

I remember when, and actually still to this day, people ask how can a child learn two languages at the same time? I knew deep down that it would be alright, that we weren't creating a freak, but, let me tell you, I was worried. So far it seems to be going well, and I couldn't be happier.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Something I love about Turkey- the Pazar

Pazars in Turkey are not like a farmers market, there are men everywhere selling fruit, vegetables, household goods and clothes, rarely though are they from these men's farms. Everything is fresh and priced to sell. It is a place where you can see all the different types of people in Turkey, modern, conservative, old, young, rich and poor. It is a noisy, crowded event, and I love it.

In my neighbourhood, the pazar comes twice a week, Thursday and Sunday. I love the the Thursday pazar because not only has it got all your fruit and veg, but it also has lots of different clothes to sell. It is the best place to get inexpensive 'brand name' clothes for kids and wearing around the house. Unfortunately, I work on Thursdays and find it quite difficult to get down to the pazar, leaving me to go on Sunday, and not get any clothes.

Don't get me wrong the Sunday pazar is very good, there is more variety of produce, I have a cheese woman, a bread and egg guy and a nut guy. There is also a man there who I buy Alara's hair clips from too.

The great thing about going to the pazar every week is having my 'pazar guys.' I have a new fruit guy and a greens guy (thank you Julia) and a garlic guy now too. These men are more then helpful when it comes to getting the best produce at the best price.

I'm going to miss the pazar, I realize there will be markets in Belgium, but it won't be the same. I speak the language here, I can chat with not only the sellers, but the little old ladies to learn what things are and how to serve them; being foreign there won't be so strange, and maybe they won't think I'm cute; My mother in law won't be there to join me in picking out the smallest eggplants and peppers and laughing every time someone asks her how she found a foreign daughter in law. There are so many things I'm going to miss, and the pazar is just one of them.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

It's raining... again

It's raining today, and it was raining yesterday, and it was cold the day before.

I never complain about rain here in Turkey. After you've lived through two or more summers where there are long water cuts, nothing is green and everyone is in a water panic, you don't mind, in fact you love when it is raining.

But for a kid who doesn't understand that we really do need this rain, life is tough. Poor Alara, she hasn't been to the park in two days, and this morning we could see that she wanted to at least be outside.

I can say that I have great in-laws. I hear that most Turkish in-laws would not be too happy with the thought of their little grandchild out in the rain. But not mine, they loved the idea. They knew she would be happy and that the fresh air would do her good. There was not even a look of opposition.

So, we all bundled up (the four adults and Alara) into warm clothes, raincoats and rain boots and headed to the pazar. We couldn't go to the park we thought, we'd spend the whole time mopping up slide and swings while it continued raining.

Our walk was lovely, there was a slight mist, but it was in a way romantic. Naturally, a romantic walk would be better if my husband was in town, and I wasn't out with the in-laws, but it was still nice.

The big news is that Alara used an umbrella for the first time, and loved it. We will definitely need to get her a kid umbrella in Belgium. I hear it rains there a lot.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

My Dad is Proud of Me

My life has some great men in it, my husband, my dad, my brother, my grandfather. Here's a picture of my dad with Alara. He likes counting how many pictures of him are on the internet.

My dad is very proud of me. I got my drivers license this year. I know, everybody has a driver's license, but I didn't, and I am thirty one years old.

Now, I know for any of you living in Canada or the States, it still might not seem like a big deal, but I didn't get my driver's license in those countries. I did mine here, in Turkey, and I did the whole thing in Turkish.

I've been in Turkey for eight years, and this was the first time that I finally felt completely comfortable and confident in my Turkish abilities. I went through the whole process the pre-course eye exam, the course, the written exam (made up of three parts, road rules, motor, and first aid), and the drivers exam and past on my first try.

I know that my dad (and to be honest husband and family) are very proud of me for doing all of this, but the reason my dad is so proud of me is because of the motor part of the exam. I did really well here, and I was able to talk about something that he knows lots about. Apparently he tells people a funny story about me calling the battery an 'accumulator'. You see, this was a new vocabulary area for me in both English and Turkish, and having never learned the words in English, I only really know the Turkish words- and apparently accumulator is a Turkish word.

My dad told me today that he is still telling this story, in fact he told it to some guy yesterday. Random people are learning Turkish! They know what an accumulator is!

I'm so happy to have done this exam, and to have been successful, it wouldn't have happened though if it hadn't been for the support of my husband (he's the one who taught me what an accumulator was in the first place, and more importantly how it works), my dad (all those long phone calls talking about what I had learned at driving school), and the rest of my family. Thanks guys!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Favourites- Parenthood

I thought that I would have one day of the week where I would write about something that is a longstanding or current favourite. These favourites will cover anything from books to movies to television programmes, to whatever I decide on that particular Friday. So let's begin, shall we?

Today I thought I would talk about one of my current favourite television programmes- Parenthood.

A few months ago, my sister sent me an email asking me if I had been watching a new show called Parenthood. I hadn't. I live in Turkey. When a show first comes out anywhere else, we don't get it right away, sometimes it takes a few weeks, sometimes it takes months, sometimes they just to seem to make their way across the big ocean. Luckıly, I am now able to watch it. And my sister, who has brilliant taste in just about everything, was right again, Parenthood is a great show!

Parenthood follows the very different lives of the Braverman family's parents, grown children, and their families. It is a complete ensemble cast, and let me tell you, there are no week links in this cast. I know that sometimes when I watch and ensemble cast, there are some story lines that I just don't want to follow, but not here, each one of the story lines is interesting and I love the way they all cross over one another.

I know what you must be thinking, 'sounds like 'Brothers and Sisters.'' And you're right, it does. Now, I have been watching Brothers and Sisters since it started how many years ago, but I prefer Parenthood. I found the story lines much more realistic, and down to earth.

The story lines in Parenthood deal with all kinds of common, modern day issues, such as- problems since the economic crisis, Asperger's Syndrome, growing up, interracial dating, getting older etc. I love how each of the characters has their own issues, but as a family they come together to help work through them all.

It is also the family that make up this show that I am crazy about. Each of the siblings is so different and interesting in their own way that you wonder how they all could have come from the same parents. The children of these siblings are also all very different, and the way they interact with each other has cousins and siblings shows a lot about the family dynamic.

What else can I say? I love this show and look forward to watching it every week (it is on Tuesday nights) and I look forward to talking about it with my sister too! I also love that since it started later in the year, now that everything is winding down, Parenthood is just getting better!

Let me know what you think about Parenthood! I'd love to know if anyone else out there is watching it, or if it is just me and my sister...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Gluten free Bazlama

As many of you know, my husband was recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I'm sure this is hard to learn anywhere, and I'm really not sure what is available in Canada or the US, but here in Turkey, it is slim pickings, even when you live in the capital city.

When the doctors first told Seyfi that he would have to start a gluten free lifestyle, he was heartbroken. Being a typical Turk, the idea of living without bread was very difficult for him. So, we went straight from the hospital to the grocery store to see what we could find... it wasn't much.

In the biggest grocery stores here in Ankara we could find a few imported goods, packages of cookies and pretzels, some cake mixes and some pastas. The biggest problem with all of these things was the price. Now, I am not saying that money is more important than my husbands health, but 25 Turkish lira (approx. 19$) for a bag of pasta is a bit much.

As we looked further down the shelf, at the very bottom were the two types of gluten free flours, one, from Italy was again 25 tl, and the other from Turkey was 4 tl. So, we brought two boxes of the Turkish flour home and thought now what?

I know, you must be thinking why not just get rice flour, almond flour, corn flour etc and make your own mix, but the only problem with that is that we can't get the xanthum gum to stick them all together anyways, and this Turkish brand already has it it, so I figured, let's just go with this for the next two months that we are in Turkey.

When I got home, I looked at the flour, my mother in law looked at the flour. It didn't feel like any flour that we had ever known. I said to her, what can we do? She suggest bazlama, a Turkish 'village' bread. She says that it is impossible to get wrong, it is very forgiving and easy to make. That's what we did.

When Bazlama is made with regular flour it is soft. It looks like a big English Muffin, and it is so good warm with butter and honey... When I make them with gluten free flour they are not as soft, but they are still yummy, so I figure that is all that matters.

I'm going to give you the recipe for gluten free bazlama the same way my mother in law gave it to me, there are no measurements, everything is done by touch. Like I said it is very forgiving...

Gluten Free Bazlama
from my mother in law's village recipe

1 box of gluten free flour (four cups)
1 Tbsp of live yeast
1 Tbsp of honey
1/2 tsp of salt
2 eggs

Mix all of these ingredients in a big bowl

Keep mixing and slowly add some warm water until it starts to form a ball

Add about 3 Tbsp of oil- until is slicks up a bit (MIL says: it should feel like an earlobe (whatever that means))

Cover with plastic and let it sit at least on hour.

After an hour, roll into little balls (MIL says: bigger than a walnut smaller than an apple) in your hand. And let them rest for about twenty minutes.

Flatten or roll each ball out and then cook in a frying pan with no oil.

Let cool of a bit and ENJOY!

Now that I know what I am doing, we are making these every few days and shipping them to Seyfi (he's in Izmir for some training). They seem to be able to last a few days and withstand a trip across the country.

The cutest thing about these bazlama is how much Alara loves to help out. Through every step of the process she wants to help make 'baba's bread.' I'm so lucky to have some great helpers!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ten Weeks

In the past few weeks the Özmay family has been living through many big changes, some good, and some...

The biggest good change is that we just celebrated Alara's second birthday! I can hardly believe that my little baby girl is TWO! and that she isn't a baby anymore!
We celebrated her birthday with gelato and our first gluten free cake...

Gluten free? You may be asking? Yes, that was another one of our changes, we need to become gluten free because Seyfi has been diagnosed with celiac disease. After months of feeling awful, it is great to finally know what has been making him so uncomfortable. The change to gluten free hasn't been easy, especially with Seyfi being in Izmir and me needing to send him packages of homemade bread, but we are managing and it really has been an adventure! To be honest, making the change to gluten free is coming at a good time, as I will soon be leaving my job, and becoming a house wife. thus having the time to play around with all sorts of yummy new recipes.

Leaving my job? You may be asking? As many of you know, we are moving the Belgium in ten weeks (more or less). Ten weeks isn't that long, but it isn't that short either. Getting ready to move is a bi undertaking, and we haven't even started yet! To be honest, the main reason we haven't started is because of Seyfi being in Izmir for three weeks. I'm not planning on started anything while he's away. The move to Belgium is really exciting, but leaving Turkey will be very hard. It has been my home for over the past eight years, and the thought of leaving makes me very sad, but we will return, and a little adventure never hurt anyone! Right?

So this is what this blog will be about, our lives (the Özmay family) as we get ready to, move to and adjust to our new life in Belgium; our adventures in the gluten free world of celiac disease, and of course the exciting happenings of our family. Hope you will enjoy reading our stories!