Monday, 30 January 2012
In many of Üzümlü's houses, sheds and garages, women are in business with their looms. Doors open up to show an Aladdin's cave draped with hand-woven silk and cotton, often adorned with tassels, sequins, and beads. These are both showroom and workshop, and part of the charm is in the enthusiastic demonstrations of the weaver's art. It didn't take me long to pick out a cream shawl with pink-and-purple details. With the sale completed, we toasted the finished transaction with home-made wine and roasted peanuts. Now I just need summer to come around, so I can wear it without exposing the delicate threads to Britain's winter weather.
Saturday, 28 January 2012
I first had Turkish pizza in Brussels, of all places, when we ended up staying across the road from a Turkish pide restaurant - it was cheap and tasty, so we went back and ate there a couple of times.
So when we got to Turkey, I was curious. Would it be the same? Or even better?
In the end, I'd say the best pide we had (pictured above) was maybe slightly better, although very similar in philosophy: huge chunks of fresh vegetables (onion, tomato, and pointed green peppers in this case), smothered with a generous helping of cheese, and fired in a wood-oven. A simple and perfect combination of flavours. I was half way through eating before I even noticed the lack of tomato sauce, such as you'd always find on pizza in the UK. Plus, it always makes a meal more fun if you can watch your food being made. Technique seems to vary between pide chefs, on whether to stretch the dough with your hands or just roll it out (it didn't seem to affect the taste, either way).
I haven't found any recipes that look exactly like what we ate, but this spinach pide does look similar to one on the menu in Brussels.
Thursday, 26 January 2012
Never before have I felt bees. On some sections of our Lycian Way walk, surrounded by hives, the air buzzed with such force that you could feel the vibrations. Parts of the path had even been re-routed to avoid walking through clouds of bees.
You can buy the delicious honey from various places along the route, as well as on the market in local towns like Fethiye. We couldn't bring any home (I think honey counts as a liquid for carry-on luggage!) but we did have toast and local honey for our breakfast a few days.
Tuesday, 24 January 2012
We don't have a TV at home: a conscious decision which almost certainly leaves us with more time for doing other things, as there's less temptation to just switch on the box and watch something indiscriminate. One added advantage is that by the time we come to watch a series on DVD, we can take recommendations from friends who've already seen it.
Over the last couple of years, catching up on good TV has evolved into a regular social occasion with a group of friends. We get together and watch two episodes from a series, punctuated with a meal between the two, and then come back the next week for the next installment. Sometimes someone cooks, but more often than not we grab the Domino's pizza menu (I love the stuffed crusts, or the 'Double Decadence' base, which has cheese between two thin layers of dough... ahem, I'm making myself hungry now!), and because Andy has such a sweet tooth, we usually also take along a little something for dessert (whether that's a box of chocolates, freshly baked cookies, or - last week - a popcorn machine).
Given my travel habit, it probably doesn't come as much of a surprise that our selections had an international feel - not that I can claim any credit for the choices, as I just turn up to watch. But I do enjoy getting some insight into what's popular around the world.
We started off with The Wire, a crime drama set in Baltimore. I loved it for its greyscale morality, where the police were often prepared to be as unethical as the drug dealers, but also for the laugh-out-loud moments such as when a couple of police pretend that their photocopier is a lie detector, to intimidate their suspect into a confession. The production used a lot of local casting, with genuine Baltimore residents and even some genuine drug dealers on the cast, which gives it a lot of authenticity.
For a little light relief after working our way through all five series of The Wire, we then moved on to watching Icelandic sitcom The Night Shift (or Næturvaktin). This is a fairly dark comedy set in a Reykjavik petrol station, and concentrating on the lives of the three men who work the night shift. It was interesting for the glimpse into Icelandic humour, as well as being funny in its own right.
We've just finished Series 1 of The Killing (or Forbrydelsen), a Danish crime drama which has made as much of a splash in the UK for its fashion (gorgeous Faroese knitwear) as for its drama. I wasn't completely won over by this one at first (there are a lot of false leads and sudden about-turns, even by crime drama standards) but it got really good in the last half-dozen episodes. I'd quite like to watch the second series at some point, but not straight away!
We haven't decided what our next series is going to be, so if you have any recommendations for excellent television, please let me know in the comments.
Sunday, 22 January 2012
I've really rediscovered the joy of jacket potatoes this winter. I've loved them since childhood, but for a couple of years they sort of fell off my list of regular eats (for no reason other than my forgetfulness). This year, though, I've been baking them regularly.
I don't like to waste energy, so when I've put the oven on I try to fill it up. Usually this means baking a dozen or more potatoes, even when there are only two of us eating. Which means leftovers. Thankfully, this leftover potato dish is one of my very favourite comfort dishes, whether as a side dish or a light main meal.
4 large baked potatoes
1 large red onion
100g grated cheese (I used cheddar)
1tbsp olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Meanwhile, slice the leek and onion finely, and fry in a little olive oil.
- Once the leek and onion have softened, slice the potatoes in half and carefully scrape the potato out of the skins.
- Add the potato to a large mixing bowl with the leek, onion, and grated cheese. Mash until combined.
- Stuff the potato skins with the mixture, pressing down firmly as it will be a tight fit.
- Place on a baking tray in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the top is beginning to crisp.
You can freeze this dish to serve another day. Just stop after stage 5 (stuffing the potato skins), and allow to cool to room temperature before freezing.
Cook from frozen, for 20-25 minutes at 200°C.
Friday, 20 January 2012
Fethiye market runs along two sides of a canal (or really well walled-in river), and is covered by huge tarpaulins and tents that make it hard to see out once you're inside. Not that you would want to, when there's so much produce to attend to, but it's easy to get disoriented. The prices for fresh fruit and vegetables in Turkey are quite low, and there's an interesting array of spices, nuts, and snacks on display. Yoghurt is sold from huge vats, and cheeses are carved from the block or - in the case of soft goats cheese - scraped out of goat-skin bags. Definitely a fun place to wander, and after we'd picked up some groceries we stopped to enjoy stuffed pancakes for lunch, which made the day even better.
Wednesday, 18 January 2012
Carved into the hills above Fethiye, there's a second "city"... of tombs. Created by the Lycian civilization, there are loads of these scattered around this area of Turkey, but those in Fethiye are particularly famous - and reasonably well-preserved - examples. We didn't pay to go right up to them, as you can't actually go inside and there's a pretty good view from the road. Some of them are very grand, with pillars carved into the rock face; presumably to house the bodies of the more important members of society, compared to those which are just little square windows.
Monday, 16 January 2012
We were walking the Lycian Way and we'd just paused for a sip of water, when a local goatherd came past. I might just have squealed when I caught sight of the adorable cargo in his backpack, and I rushed for my camera. Definitely the cutest thing I'd seen in a while.
Saturday, 14 January 2012
It should be obvious by now that I really love to try different foods, and I always look out for fun things to eat when I'm travelling. This isn't always the easiest thing as a vegetarian: some countries aren't that veggie-friendly, and even in those where veggie options are plentiful, you need some grasp of the language to make sure you order the right thing. Turkey falls into the latter category. There's plenty of vegetarian food around, and you just need to learn a few key words to be able to order it. And we were lucky to be travelling with my dad, who'd already picked up the critical vocabulary.
Gözleme was one of my favourite finds. Generally translated as 'pancakes', they're made of a very thin dough, stuffed with good stuff like potatoes, cheese, and spinach. We found a few good gözleme places on our travels, and it's also a great spectator sport, as they're rolled in front of your (hungry!) eyes and traditionally cooked on a special wood-fired oven.
I really must get hold of a recipe and see what I can do to recreate these at home.
UPDATE: I did it! Here's my very own Turkish pancake recipe.
Thursday, 12 January 2012
Two of the most impressive buildings in the abandoned village of Kayaköy are its churches. They're Greek Orthodox, which means that even in ruins they're more spectacular than many churches I've seen! And they're still in a surprisingly good state.
Around the back of one church lurks another surprise: a bone house, where the bones were kept when the grave was to be re-used. I was quite astonished to hear they washed the bones in wine (not the good stuff, I hope).
Tuesday, 10 January 2012
The village of Kayaköy, in southern Turkey, used to house a Greek population. When the Greeks returned to Greece, no-one moved in, and the village has gradually fallen into disrepair.
The site is run as a museum, with a small entrance charge, but it's worth it to wander through these deserted streets. We were there "off season" so it wasn't swarming with tourists, either.
Sunday, 8 January 2012
... when you can keep fit on these outdoor gym machines?
We found these up a hill in Kemer, the little town near my dad's place in Turkey. I'd definitely go to the gym more often if it had views like these! (Though probably only on nice, sunny days... I think I can see why this makes more sense in Turkey than England.)
Friday, 6 January 2012
It's two years since I sat down, on my 27th birthday, and made this list.
That means I only have one year left to make as much progress as I can against the goals I've set myself. And that means I have to get organized, and get ruthless.
Some of these are big goals, like my PhD, towards which I'm making slow but steady progress. Will I finish in time? It's virtually impossible to predict, and not entirely up to me (there are examiners, after all, to examine me...) but I'm still hopeful. I have a reasonably concrete plan, and none of the steps feel too huge.
For others - like learning new juggling tricks - I'm simply going to have to find some time to set aside. But that's a large part of why I made the list in the first place: to encourage myself to set time aside for things that I wanted to work on. Time to stop procrastinating and start doing stuff...
|Previous 6 Jul 2011||Latest|
6 Jan 2012
|Complete my PhD||First tranche of experiments||Changed topic & conducted more experiments|
|Publish in an academic journal||Not started||Papers in draft|
|Present at a conference||Presented a short paper & poster in January 2011|
|Install a woodburning stove||Fitted August 2011|
|Redecorate the house||Completed in August 2011|
|Install solar water heating||Idea scrapped - not cost effective|
|Build raised vegetable beds||Not started|
|Go to Greenland||Visited in June 2010|
|Visit the southern hemisphere||Probably New Zealand in 2012|
|Have visited 30 countries||Started at 20; up to 23 by Jan 2011.||27: added Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Turkey.|
|Writing & Speaking|
|Have a novel published||Independently published my first two novels (Rebellion & Revolution) - getting great reviews so far, and reasonable sales|
|Finish the Charanthe series||Rebellion (#1) published||Completed & published Revolution (#2)|
|Finish writing one standalone novel||Odd first-drafts lying around|
|Record and podcast an audiobook||Done some test recordings|
|Have articles printed in 10 different publications||1/10 so far; a few further queries ignored.||Writing a travel series for a local talking newspaper/magazine|
|Average 5,000 hits a month on my blog||Started ~1,500, avg. ~2,200 in early 2010||Over the past six months the average is ~4,000|
|Get a slot on the local radio station||Took a short course in radio production and broadcasting, but decided not to proceed.|
|Take at least 5 public speaking engagements||One completed talk||Two further bookings for 2012|
|Crafts & Skills|
|Hand-knit a jumper or cardigan for myself||Knit myself a cardigan|
|Learn embroidery||Various projects|
|Learn 10 new juggling tricks||Not started|
|Use manual camera settings most of the time||Currently rather erratic||Started a Project 365|
|Get my Guiding warrant||Around 1/2 done|
|Develop a board game||Made an initial prototype (lots of work still to do!)|
|Make all my own Christmas cards||Succeeded in 2010|
|Complete a triathlon||** NEW July 2011 **|
|Sew a dress for myself||** NEW July 2011 **|
Wednesday, 4 January 2012
One of the things I put on my "Before I'm 30" goals list was to learn to use manual settings on my camera. But there's one problem with this as an aspiration: when I want to take a photo, I usually want to take it NOW, straight away, while the light is perfect or the bird is poised... not after however many minutes of fiddling around and consulting textbooks and thinking about apertures.
I've been toying with the idea of doing a Project 365 since I first saw some of my blogger friends posting their results. (For anyone who's unfamiliar with the concept, the idea is to take a photo every day for a year.) This seems like a good way to get to where I want to be. Every day, I'm going to take a photograph. But here's the catch: I'm going to take it with my camera set to M. I expect the results to be dreadful, at first, but hopefully this will force me to improve, with the hope that I'll eventually get to the stage that I can pick settings without feeling like I'm faffing for an hour. Unfortunately I already missed one day, due to being fast asleep most of yesterday, but it'll be good to give myself a bit of extra structure to my practice, even if I don't manage to complete it perfectly.
Monday, 2 January 2012
I deliberately picked out a lot of Christmas reads for December (in fact, I'd been saving them up over the summer), so there's a seasonal theme to many of these books. There also seemed to be a fair few Christmas freebies on the Kindle, particularly short stories, so I read somewhat outside of my usual genres this month. Of course, I also managed to fit in a couple of fantasy and sci-fi books, and one (wintery) murder.
The Makers of Light by Lynna Merrill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is the second book in the "Masters That Be" series, and an excellent continuation. Like many fantasy series, this is more like reading sections of one long book than individual novels. Compared to the first book, this volume has slightly less focus on Linden and Rianor, and more on Dominick and Merley, but in terms of ideas there is a continued examination of science and religion, control and independence. And there's plenty going on, of course, which makes it a very quick and fun read.
Sugar Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This story was much shorter than most in this series, so there wasn't much complexity in the mystery, but it was an enjoyable - if simple - Christmas read. It's also absolutely packed with recipes (savoury as well as the usual cookies), but I don't know if I'll use any of them.
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
One day, I accidentally gave myself something like migraine by running a command that caused huge amounts of data to scroll (very fast) on my computer terminal. It was a long file, and I was smart enough to look away after a few seconds, but for a couple of hours after I couldn't actually stand up straight. "Sounds like snow crash," said a sympathetic friend, and then he had to explain this book, and of course I had to read it. There's actually a lot more action (and swordfights) than you might expect from a book about a computer virus, and it's entertaining, but the style annoyed me a bit and the ending was a bit inconclusive, so overall I'm ambivalent. I enjoyed it, but probably not enough to reread.
Fear not by Anne Holt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a fairly tense mystery with a snowy Norwegian backdrop that's just perfect for this time of year. The themes, however, are grim and not at all merry - a good read, but by no means a light one. In the beginning the style felt a bit jumpy as the story moved between many viewpoint characters, but gradually the plot-lines started to converge and make sense as a coherent and satisfying whole.
Twelve Days of Christmas by Trisha Ashley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I thought it would be fun to read some Christmassy books during December, and this one was in the Kindle sale, so I picked it up without any real idea of what to expect. It's a very sweet book, with an entertaining cast of characters snowed in at a country house, and I really enjoyed it (although the style bugged me a bit - too many exclamation marks! Everywhere!). And then, just as I was finishing it, I learnt that this is going to be one of my mum's PhD texts - I can't wait to hear what she has to say about it.
The Quaint Christmas by Darren Craske
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Although perfectly readable, this short story was really disappointing. Quaint is described as a witty and cunning man, and he sets out to con his way to some birds for Christmas dinner - but no detail is given as to how his plan is meant to unfold, and then the ending was rather sudden and unsatisfactory.
All I Want for Christmas is You by Lisa Mondello
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This is a gentle Christmas romance, but it didn't really grab me; everything fell into place rather too easily. But then, it's also quite short, so I suppose that's understandable. A pleasant enough way to spend an evening, but not a favourite.
Six Geese a-Laying by Sophie Kinsella
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This is a microscopic short story, that I grabbed as a seasonal freebie on Kindle. It takes place in an ante-natal class, filled with largely unlikeable characters who really need a bit of Christmas cheer.
A Winter's Tale by Trisha Ashley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I bought this because I enjoyed Trisha Ashley's Twelve Days of Christmas, and I think I'm spotting some common themes: country houses, enigmatic sculptors, and fiercely independent, slightly snappish heroines. In this book, Sophy inherits a large house with money problems, and sets about making it profitable, with help and hindrance from a variety of relatives and local characters. Great fun.
A Simple Amish Christmas by Vannetta Chapman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a very sweet, gentle story about an Amish girl who returns to her family after a period away, which she spent 'rebelling' by becoming a registered nurse. Although it's set around Christmas (as per the title), there wasn't a heavy emphasis on the time of year, but there was a great sense of Amish life as Annie tries to settle back into the ways of her community.
Draykon by Charlotte E. English
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a sweet fantasy novel with a pleasing mix of fantasy and adventure. For the most part, the book follows two characters: a young and anxious jeweller, Llandry, and a cynical High Summoner, Eva. When Llandry finds an unusual new gem - and Eva buys a piece of the resulting jewellery - they are both sucked into the mystery of where the stone has come from and why someone is prepared to kill for it. I love a good mystery, and I love a well-developed fantasy setting, and this book has both in spades. Definitely one of my favourite books of the year.
The Baby Trap by Sibel Hodge
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I suspect this is the perfect novel for someone who's struggling with infertility. Unfortunately, as I've never tried to get pregnant, I'm not immersed in that world and consequently spent a lot of this book feeling slightly sick at the descriptions of bodily functions and medical procedures. The story was sweet, and there were laugh-out-loud hilarious moments, but I just couldn't get past the "ick!" for long enough to love it.