Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Goodbye Ankara

I can't believe that just over eight years ago I came to this city alone and am now leaving it with my own family.

Ankara has been a great place to live, I have seen it change so much over the past years, and I'm sure when we get back it will be a completely different place!

I'll miss so many things about the city, the fact that you can go everywhere by taxi for under 25 bucks, my pickle guy, the variety of shopping centres where I almost always see at least one of my students, it really is a big city that feels like a small town.

Tonight, I'm not saying goodbye to Turkey, we'll be back, but our time in Ankara is finished. This city truly has changed my life.

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Route

We are leaving in three more sleeps, but I am not sure whether or not I will have Internet much longer, so I really wanted to put up a link of the route we will be driving to Belgium.

On Thursday morning, we are leaving Ankara, Turkey and driving to the coast town Bodrum. It is about a ten hour drive, the longest we will be in the car the whole trip. We will spend the night there in a little hotel.

On Friday morning, we are boarding a ferry and going to the Greek island Kos. We are going to spend the day there. To be honest I have no idea what we are going to do there, I really haven't looked into the island at all...

Friday evening we board a ferry and spent the night there. Hopefully we will be able to get a good night's sleep!

Early Saturday morning we arrive in Pireas, Greece (near Athens) and drive to Patra. It is a three hour drive. We then get on another ferry that will take us to Ancona, Italy.

On Sunday we get to Italy and drive. We've decided to stop in Milan for lunch, espresso and gelato. We then continue on to Basel, Switzerland. Where we have a hotel waiting for us. The hotel has got a Mexican restaurant for dinner, and a gluten free breakfast for Seyfi in the morning.

Bright and early Monday morning we leave for our final destination Mons, Belgium. We will be driving through France, Germany and Luxembourg. The hotel is waiting, and then the fun of looking for a house and buying furniture begins!

Please wish us luck!

Four Years....

I'm writing this post this morning, because yesterday night we were up very late watching the final match. Too be honest, I didn't watch any of the match, we had a load of good friends over and I was sitting on the balcony with some of the other ladies enjoying a good chat before we all had to say good bye.

Yesterday was also a very special day for a more important reason, it was mine and Seyfi's four year wedding anniversary.

Four years! So many things have changed, and are changing for us, it has been amazing. I feel that our relationship is better today than it was four years ago, and I know that it is only going to get better.

Happy Anniversary Baby! Let's hope for another 100!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Favourites- Birds without Wings

As this is my last week in Turkey, I thought I would have my Friday favourite be about one of my favourite books, which happens to be set in Turkey. Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres, is truly one of the best books that I have ever read. I recommend it to everyone, and they all seem to love it.

This book is set in a small village, with different groups of people (Turks, Greeks, Armenians, Kurdish, women, men, children, Muslim, Christian, Jewish etc.) at the end of the Ottoman Empire. It tells the story of the last days of the Ottomans and the beginning of the Turkish Republic.

The story is told through a variety of characters' different points of view. It explains to the reader how this time in history was seen through the eyes of the different groups who were experiencing it.

I think that the reason I loved the book was because it was such a clear, honest look into village life in Turkey. It never tried on group better or worse than another, it gave a very balanced account of the times, of people who had once lived together harmoniously, sharing everything, to people who did not feel that way anymore.

This book is a wonderful story about a time in Ottoman history that is often portrayed very harshly. It brings respect and honor to all those involved. I recommend this book to anyone looking to laugh and to cry, to feel and to learn.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Istanbul Pictures

Here are some pictures from our short Istanbul trip...

The fortress on the European side.

A mosque on the European side.

Aya Sophya from the water.

Alara being cute on the ferry, winning over the crowd as usual.

Cengelkoy on the Asian side. The best borek in town!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Another day in Istanbul

We had a boat filled day today in Istanbul. By boat is really the best way to see some of the most beautiful parts of the city.

We did a small bosphorus tour,

where we got to see some of the bridges, boats and big houses that line the shores.

Alara especially loved being on the boat. It was actually quite empty, so she was able to go around and talk to everyone. I think her favourite was this man...

He let her steer the boat for a bit. She loved that!

I also did had my favourite thing today...

It's only in Istanbul that you are able to by a mix of pickles, and their juice (which is so yummy) as a street food. I absolutely love it!!!

I'll post some more pictures tomorrow from my camera, these are just the ones from my phone.

Posted From My iPhone

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

In Istanbul

So, we are in Istanbul, doing a last tour and saying goodbye to Seyfi's sister.

If you've never been to Istanbul, you would never believe it. It's so big and crowded, yet there are little nooks, like the one in this picture, where it feels like time stands still.

This picture is my favourite place to visit in Istanbul, probably because I have wonderful memories of sitting and eating here with varies groups of friends and family talking history, literature, politics and life, but mote likely because it is never full of tourists.

There are lots of tourist places to see in Istanbul, and you can't visit the city without seeing them. However, after you've been in this country for as ling as I have, you get very tired of being treated as a tourist (it's not all that bad), and want to fit in with the locals.

Istanbul is a city of contrast, this morning we were driving and saw a man stop his car, get out and go the car behind him and punch the guy through the window, but then as our toll bridge pass card ran out, and we were blocked in, an man gave us his card, and showed us how to get where we were going. I love this about Istanbul.

I know that I would never want to live here, too big, too crowded, to noisy, but I love visiting.

Tomorrow we are doing a Bosphorus boat tour! I'm looking forward to doing that again!

Post From My iPhone

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Cooking became...

Gluten free girl and the chef are doing another community post, to which I once again wanted to be a part of, this week we are completing the sentence...

'Cooking grew easier, and more enjoyable, when I learned...'

For me, cooking grew easier, and more enjoyable when I learned I didn't have to follow a recipe exactly.

Let me explain, I love looking at recipes and finding new ingredients and new methods of cooking, but the problem is that I live in Turkey. When I first moved here, there was nothing that I knew from back home, no cans of tomatoes, no liquid vanilla, no chili powder, vegetables that were only available in season, and I remember the ketchup being awful. I also remember finding it very difficult to find nice whole wheat bread. If I could find and 'foreign' products, they were very expensive and could only be considered a 'treat'.

At first I hated cooking here, I thought that I couldn't make certain recipes because I didn't have all the products required. I couldn't even find dried basil, if someone did find it, they bought a bunch for everyone! Then I started making things from scratch, and you know what, they tasted even better.

No more pancakes from a box, no more canned tomatoes, I made barbecue sauce (although now I can find it here and buy it), homemade pizza dough. I make chili with white beans because kidney beans, when found are very expensive. I make my own cakes with homemade icing, nothing from a box.

Turkey has changed a lot in the eight years that I have been here, I can find boxes of mixes now, cans of tomatoes, prepared tomato sauces, there are actually freezer sections in large grocery stores that carry a variety of choices. But you know what, I rarely use them, I have found my tricks to getting around these problems, I have learned to work with what has been available and there is no going back.

I have even decided that while we are living in Belgium, I am going to continue to cook like this, I don't want to have to learn all of this over again when I come back in three years!

For example, when I make lasagna, the cheeses here are a bit different, so my inside cheese layers involve some crumbly cheese (lor peynir) some melty cheese (ka┼čar peynir) and some bechemel sauce. I've found that this makes a nice substitution from ricotta.

Another example is for baking- brown sugar- still can't get it here (I lie, there is 'brown sugar' but it isn't like we know it, it isn't soft.) So I mix molasses and sugar to get soft brown sugar. They don't have a liquid vanilla, but they do have powdered, so I have learned to use that too.

My love of cooking really did start when I learned to let go of some of the rules, let myself make mistakes and just start cooking what was delicious and from the heart!

I'm now going to share my Turkish Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe with you... It makes the most delicious cookies ever, they are super soft. These measurements work best in Turkey- I've never tried them elsewhere, and I have yet to convert them to gluten free- but they are a crowd favourite, so here we go...

Turkish Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

*In a large bowl, beat
250 grams melted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp molasses
1 packet powdered vanilla

2 eggs

* Beat the dry ingredients into the wet

* Add
2 bars of milk chocolate (chopped)
2 bars of bitter chocolate (chopped)

* Spoon onto parchment paper lined baking sheets and bake for 7-8 minutes at 180C
* Let them rest for two minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.

+ Just a note, there are chocolate chips in Turkey, but I don't really like them, and they seem a bit expensive, but you could use 1 1/2 boxes of these in the chocolate bars place.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Seyfi's Graduation

'Baba's a penguin! Baba's a penguin!' This is what Alara was saying today when she saw Seyfi in his graduation gown...

Today I am so proud of my husband. I can't believe the two years ago, Seyfi started his working on his masters. Today, saw the end of this journey, and the result that he has been working so hard for.

For those of you who do not know my husband, he is the most hard working, studious, goal achieving man I have ever meat. He always wants to be studying and learning new things.

After studying English for just a few years, he has finished in the top of this years group, (which is how we were able to be sent to Belgium). He has also finished his Masters in English and is now planning to work on his PhD.

For the past two years he has worked so hard, and yet we have never felt that he wasn't giving the family all the attention that we needed. He has somehow been able to find a way to balance everything in his life.

Congradulations Seyfi! I couldn't be happier for you! I hope you never lose your desire to continue learning.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday Favourites- Top Chef

I will admit, I love reality television, Survivor, Amazing Race, I also love cooking shows, Anna Olson, Jamie Oliver... It only makes sense that I would love Top Chef.

I have been watching it for a number of years now, and I think that the show keeps getting better and better. I love the contestants, the hosts, the challenges and the way that you learn new things about cooking without following something step by step.

The first part of the show is the 'quick fire' challenge. A short, limited challenge that sees the contestants running around and thinking very quick. The second part of the show is the main challenge, and it can involve so many different challenges, ranging from team, to pair, to solo and also different budget ranges.

I also think that I like the show because they cook the way I like to cook, (not super fast), but with what is given. I love looking in the cupboard and making something off the top of my head.

The new season of Top Chef has started, and it is amazing! I love the new group of chefs and the challenges! The last episodes had the chefs making pie!

Top Chef is on Wednesday nights on Bravo, I hope you'll give it a watch, if you don already.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day to all my Family and Friends!

This is now my ninth Canada Day being celebrated outside of Canada. I unfortunately have to be honest and say that every year I celebrate it a bit less. I don't really know why.

During my first years in Turkey, I would out my flag up and get together with other Canadians and celebrate. One year, Seyfi and I were invited to the ambassador's house for a garden party, where we ate cheddar cheese and drank ginger ale! (It was amazing!)

These days, July 1st always seems to sneak up on me, it is usually the first day of my summer holiday, and I just don't get around to doing anything Canadian (like eating poutine and watching a hockey game).

Today, our apartment was painted, so we took the opportunity to pack up most of our things and put them into storage, and then to stay out of the way of the painters we went out for lunch and shopping. The most Canadian thing we did today was watch Caillou (and he was speaking Turkish).

Oh well, there is always next year...

I'm now a housewife...

Yesterday was my last day of work. I can't believe it, after six years of working at the same place, that part of my life has finished. I no longer need an alarm, or 'work clothes'. I'm now a homemaker.

With how 'cool' it is these days to be a 'housewife' of somewhere, I trying to decided what kind of a housewife I want to be.... New Jersey? to much big hair... New York? to much arguing... Orange County? my boobs are too small... Desperate? I don't think so...

I'm sure I'll find my stride once we get to our new house, and get settled there... hopefully...