Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Moth Infestation!

Why is it that whenever we go away for a few weeks, we return to find our home filled with moths and my rice and bulgur teeming with white larvae?

I'm definitely guilty of keeping my grains and beans too long; on more than one occasion I've bought red lentils, only to find I've already got a whole bunch in the cupboard.

But that doesn't explain why things that lie dormant for months come to life while we're away! Is it the lack of air circulation, as doors and windows stay closed? Does the house get hot, providing the right incubation conditions? Does anyone have any ideas?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Me or My Kids?

Most mornings, I manage only to dress either my kids or myself, not both.

Which would you choose?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Beer and Baklava

Is baklava to Turks what beer is to Canadians?

There's been a lot of fuss in the papers lately about a particular Turkish television star (Kivanç Tatlıtuğ in case you're interested) and his "baklava." Turns out, everyone's talking about his abs, aka his "six pack."

Too bad both six packs and baklava are detrimental to my abdominal area.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Fortieth Day

A baby's fortieth day is traditionally celebrated in Turkey for reasons mostly forgotten now. As I've watched my newborn develop over the past few weeks, and have myself felt better and better postpartum, I've come to believe there is ancient truth and wisdom to the forty day "rules."

Sitting on the beach chatting to some ladies, my sister-in-law suddenly realized it was Baby's fortieth day. To celebrate, that evening we made irmik helvasi, a dessert out of semolina. We melted about a pound of butter and stirred a pound of semolina and a pound of sugar into it; then took turns stirring for a half hour, until the semolina was gold
en brown. Everyone -- my husband, my brother-in-law, my husband's nieces and nephews, a neighbour -- took turns stirring, and each time, that person said a prayer, well wishes for Baby's life.

We didn't wait for the helva to cool, pouring it out like liquid pudding onto plates. We topped each puddle of sugary delight with some pecans and cinnamon and dug in.

Deliciousness aside, I found the whole process moving and quite lovely.

p.s. sorry, no pictures ... The few I took made the helva look decidedly unappetizing. Here's one I swiped from the internet.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What I Still Don't Know

Turkey is not 'user friendly,' as I discovered as soon as I tried to become independent in any way upon my arrival here five years ago. I couldn't find a map of the bus routes in Adana, let alone a posting of the fares, and at any given bus stop, it's anyone's guess which buses actually pass by; places can't be found using just an address and a map; I never saw a phone book. My "aha" moment then was realizing that Turkish people, at least in Adana, operate mostly orally, passing on to each other the kind of information I, as a foreigner, wanted to find on my own. If you didn't know anyone and if you didn't know the language, you were lost.

Fast forward to the present: I've spent the last few weeks at the beach, in the same site I've been coming to with my husband for five years on summer weekends. This is the first time, though, I've stayed for any prolonged period of time; and with children at that! And so I needed to become independent, fast.

Living in Turkey for five years has taught me that water and groceries are always only a phone call away; you just need to learn the phone number of the local market that will deliver. There is often a pool of women who work for residents of a building or site as housekeepers or babysitters; again, you just need to ask around for a recommendation. And the best places to eat, swim and buy fish, while unknown to foreign tourists, are common knowledge to everyone else -- you just have to ask!

And so I arrived here almost three weeks ago, knowing what I didn't know, and immediately set out finding out the answers.

Still at it ...

Last night's endeavour:

30 kg of tomatoes
33 750mL jars
5.5 pairs of hands
4 knives
1 peeler
3 hours of labour

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Preserving Tomatoes

There's nothing "cottagey" about our Turkish summer house, as much as I like to reference Torontonians' "going to the cottage" on summer weekends whenever I explain to non-Turks what a yazlık is. Our doors and windows don't creak; our neighbour is 10 metres away; our mosquitoes are drugged every evening by gardeners so that we aren't bothered by them; our beach has been replaced by a perfect lawn so that no one has to deal with sand getting everywhere; our water is turquoise and warm; our gardens are manicured.

Still, I've been engaging in "cottagey" behaviour. Like my mother, who spent our summers at the cottage picking wild fruit and making jam, my husband and I have been spending considerable time preserving tomatoes.

It has felt so good getting my hands and clothes dirty, sweating in the name of "old fashioned hard work" and producing something! When else would I have the time/energy/motivation to peel even one tomato, except on holiday surrounded by like-minded people who insist on helping?

Resolution: to do a little more of this kind of thing in my "real" life.

Some stats from the most recent batch:

20 kg of tomatoes for 15 Lira (about $10cdn)
19 1-kg jars
5 pairs of helping hands
5 hours of labour

Step by step in photos:

From City Boy to Country Urchin

You know your kid's dirty when:
  • his tears leave clean streaks down his cheeks
  • people don't want to pick him up
  • you don't want to pick him up
  • bath time fun is replaced by serious scrubbing
  • his clothes no longer come out clean in the wash
  • you stop worrying about whether he'll catch something from his filthy favourite stuffed animal, who he takes everywhere

Friday, September 2, 2011

Learning to Let Go

This would never have happened, had he been in my care!

Sitting on the table, honey dripping down his chin and onto his bare knees, his arms almost shaking from the sugar coursing through his veins -- his first "sugar coma," as they say in Turkish -- a horrifying sight!

But when he dipped an olive into the honey and proudly offered it to me, I realized he doesn't get enough opportunities to be crazy and I bit my tongue; no comments about sugar before nap time or sugar in general, for that matter; no comments about instilling table manners.

I braced myself and swallowed that sticky oily olive and smiled.

What followed, on the other hand, was all my doing: