From Good to Bad

How does a day go from being great to being absolutely shite?

Yesterday started as a great day.  Daughter had her math tutor come for an hour (thank you Capt. Awesome) and then I left to go and visit a friend on the absolute other side of Mersin.  Making this trip is like going from Palm Beach to Campbelltown but doing it on public transport.  I had a great day though, sitting in the sun, wandering past antiquities (I will get to that another day) before having a beer and nibblies on the beachfront.

Upon my return though I walked into absolute bedlam.  My sister in law had come from Adana for the weekend and brought her two kids with her.  Daughter has had a difficult time with connecting with these cousins but yesterday it seemed all the kids were playing together nicely until an older cousin turned up.  The first thing that came out of Miss Bitchy-pants mouth was a snide comment and it put Daughter’s back up.  Immediately the shite hit the fan.

Having a big family is really great for Daughter.  Being surrounded by people who love her (well except for Miss Bitchy-pants) is a good thing for a child who grew up with no extended family but I have got to be honest with you – it is doing my feking head in!  My frustration levels are going through the roof with the yelling and arguments, the trials and the tears but the worst part of the whole evening was The Turk.

The Turk gets agitated incredibly easily.  If things don’t go according to his thought pattern he can become quite the asshole.  I have come to recognise his moods and usually put him in his place quite quickly but unfortunately the rest of his family have not yet re-familiarised themselves with the warning signs.  Living here in Mersin there is always something that gets him agitated because he is surrounded by people all the time and frankly as much as I love living here the evenings have become quite unpleasant, to say the least.

My issue is that The Turk (other than his raging temper) is that always takes his family’s side on any issue with Daughter.  He never sticks up for her.  He never says, “it’s OK Daughter, I know you were not at fault.  I will speak to Miss Bitchy-pants parents or speak to Miss Bitchy-pants herself.”  Never.  It kills me.  Witnessing him take Miss Bitchy-pants side every single time over Daughters breaks my heart because it breaks her heart.

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I walked out last night.  We were supposed to have a BBQ (which was moved to Songul’s home due to the chaos that was taking place in our home).  I walked for quite some time.  I had nowhere to go but I knew if I stayed I was going to stay something that I would ultimately regret, and not to The Turk (I never regret anything I say to him).

This morning is a new day.  A bright day (well it is raining but my point remains the same).  Today I will not be drawn into the family drama.  I did make a suggestion to Daughter though, “Next time Miss Bitchy-pants says something nasty write it down and hand it back to her.  Every single time.  It might irritate her, she might screw it up and throw it at you but she might also read it and realise that she is being mean.  And remember Daughter – deep breaths, keep taking deep breaths.”

Icli Kofte

Recently we walked down to visit the remaining Auntie Muriel at her home down by the deniz.  A pleasant walk on a beautiful spring day and all of us including My Hurley Dog enjoyed ourselves immensely.  A spot decision was also made to take My Hurley Dog to the beach so he could have a run and a splash (after all it is very much warm enough here).

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Arriving at Auntie Muriel’s I immediately realised we came on a good day.  Her son was returning to Germany the next morning and so she and her daughter were making Icli Kofte for his farewell party.

Icli Kofte (also known by Daughter and I as Nene Kofte) is Daughter’s absolute favourite meal.  They are bloody hard to make.  The few times The Turk and I tried they were dismal failures but everyone in the village seem to know how to make them and damn it they make it look so easy! 

Anyone who has been to a Middle Eastern or Lebanese Restaurant (or has been to the Middle East or Lebanon) would have tried the similarly made Kibbe but I know that Icli Kofte are just that little bit better (Daughter says its because it is made with love).

There is an awful lot to the recipe so if you want to give these a go I would suggest you try the recipe from Ozlem’s Turkish Table.  I have tried a few of her recipes and they always successful (well most of the time) and spot on for taste.

Referring to her recipe we do not put in walnuts at all.  We do use all the spices mentioned but we also add cumin and biber salcasi (pepper paste) to give the bulgur dough a tinge or glow. 

The dough needs to be perfect.  If it is not perfect it will be damn near impossible to make the little parcel and fill with the meat mixture.  To be honest I cannot do it.  It is bloody hard.  I sat there watching Auntie Muriel making these at such a speed all the while chatting and laughing, not a care in the world.  I tell you the last time The Turk and I tried to make them it nearly caused WWIII in our household (and it left a hell of a mess to clean up).  Oh also we add the pepper paste to the dough as well – obviously we like it spicy here in the village.

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After a couple of leisurely hours drinking cay and listening to Turkish chatter Auntie Muriel sent us on our way with a plate of her Icli Kofte for dinner.  I carried my precious cargo of kofte home and immediately started making the sauce which we add to pretty much everything.  I have mentioned the sauce before – pepper paste (yes again), garlic and oil, honestly it works with pretty much everything.

Ozlem bakes her Icli Kofte but here we either deep fry them, a favourite with the çocuklar (kids) or boil them (my favourite and obviously a lot healthier). 

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Served with a salad, for me this is a meal but to many this is merely an appetizer, either way I will finish with Afiyet Olsun or enjoy your meal.

Two Years Ago

Two years ago today I sat in a doctor’s office with my father, his wife and my brother.  I sat there listening to a doctor tell my father that he had no time left, that the cancer was winning and to make arrangements for palliative care.

I had no idea.  I had no idea that he was sick.  I knew he had had surgery in January but he and his wife still travelled overseas in February.  They were even making plans to go away in July.  He was not sick.  He was fine. 

I had been in Mersin in April when I received an email from my brother telling me to come home, telling me that our Dad was ill.  No one told me.  Dad didn’t tell me.  His wife didn’t tell me.  I then got an email from my boss telling me to come home.  I was scared.  I tried to telephone my Dad and my brother but I could not get onto any of them as there had been a big storm in Mersin and it had knocked out all telephone and internet.  I finally got onto my Dad and he said he was fine.  His voice was cheerful, he was telling jokes.  My Dad always told jokes, legendary jokes.  He said that my brother was being overly concerned. 

It took days but I finally got onto my brother who told me to come home – now.

My next problem was getting a flight.  This is not always easy.  We had flights arranged for the next week.  I tried to change it.  It was difficult.

I finally got home.  I spoke to my brother.  I still remember it.  I arrived home at 11 pm and I rang my brother first thing the next morning.

“Jane, there is nothing they can do.”  I was at the shopping centre buying milk and bread for breakfast.  I collapsed on the floor and wept.  People walked around me, embarrassed by my outburst.  I did not care.

Two years ago today I sat in a doctor’s office with my dad, his wife and my brother.  Two years ago today I was told that my first love, my dad, was being taken from me forever.  Little did I know that it would be a mere 3 weeks before he left me.

Two years ago.

Double Barrel Post

I woke quite early on Saturday morning – my nemesis has been cock-a-doo-a-doo-ing really, really early (yes my nemesis is my neighbour’s rooster).  I hate him.

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You might recall this post when My Hurley Dog took out one of his women, well I am quite sure that he holds me personally responsible for her assassination and he is now waking up even earlier to cock-a-doo-a-doo outside my window.  I hate him.

The only thing he is good for is a roast, or maybe fry up some pieces a-la KFC.  I hate him and I hate his women (of which there are many).

They cluck.  All day.  Cluck, cluck, cluck.  Clucking and cock-a-doo-a-doo-ing.  I hate them all.

A list of reasons to hate chickens:

They are dumb.  They eat everything including their own poop.  They are dumb.  They are ugly.  They smell bad.  They cannot even fly.  They are useless.  But they are pretty tasty.

I have suggested to My Hurley Dog that if the rooster gets into the garden he is to go for the jugular.  He doesn’t understand me but I know he will do it regardless.  He is like The Terminator without the accent.

The other part of my morning was taken up my My Kedi Cat’s bestie.  We have called him Evil (although by the end of this story you will know that ‘he’ is actually a ‘she’).  Evil was a wild little kitten when we first arrived 9 months ago.  He wouldn’t let you near him but through perseverance and a lot of luck I converted Evil into ‘my’ stray.  I always kept an eye out for him and he would always come running to me if he saw me in the street (actually all the Village Kedi’s do that. I am the Village Cat Lady) and, of course, he is my cat’s BFF.

Last Tuesday Evil was asleep in My Hurley Dog’s bed.  He seemed really dopey and quite sick.  I called him to the door to give him a little food and when he stood up there was blood running down his hind legs.  Worse still there was mucus (dare I call it a plug) on the bed.  Ewww.  I did not know what had happened but when I tried to examine him he ran off.  At this point I realised that Evil was in fact a ‘she’ and I expect that she was either in labour or had had a miscarriage.

Fast forward to Saturday morning and I poked my head out the window and saw Evil asleep in My Hurley Dog’s bed again with My Kedi Cat watching her intently.  She was a mess, the bed was a mess too but in the corner of the bed was a teeny, tiny little kitten.  Really tiny.  See, Evil did not look pregnant, even before the bloody incident of last Tuesday she did not look pregnant so to find this teeny, tiny kitten in the bed was quite a shock, particularly as this would indicate that she had been labour for 4 days.  This little guy or girl was quite a fighter though to have survived thus far.

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My Hurley Dog was a little put out by Evil dropping her bub in his bed so I transferred her and bub downstairs with a clean towel and box.  She’s turned out to be a good little mother too, very protective.

Finally and just because, here are some more photos of Nanu’s babies.  They are a bundle of crazy.

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Kittens make me happy.

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I Am Switzerland

It has come to my attention that my sisters in law are constantly in-fighting and I, being the newest addition to the clan, am Switzerland, always trying to broker peace between the warring parties (which is incredibly difficult to do when you do not speak Turkish).

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The battle is a 2 on 1 and every time I walk into anyone’s home I get a rundown of the most recent wrong that had been brought to pass.

Since Vito’s son’s return from the army Vito’s wife (The Onion) has been popping in with plates of food or inviting me down for cay or kahve.  This is a complete turnaround from her behaviour over the past 9 months and I put it down to me making that effort to attend at her son’s welcome home party.  As the cold war has been defrosted slightly I have decided to take this change of attitude in my stride and establish my role in this family as a NATO peacekeeper (which will be an incredibly difficult task believe me).

My first assignment as official conciliator took place on Sunday night.  Songul invited the family over for mangal (BBQ(.  Let me explain – Songul invited this family (The Turk, Daughter and I) and the upstairs sister in law and her family.  This also means that The Onion was and her family were NOT invited.  I suggested that we invite The Onion to dinner but I was shot down.  I explained with my limited vocabulary that it would be the right thing to do and, when this did not work, I said that if she invited The Onion and she said no then Songul was the bigger person and looked like she had made an effort.  Her eyes lit up at the thought of having one up on The Onion but still pride got the better of her so I took the initiative and sent Daughter down with an invite anyway.  The Onion did, as expected, say no to the invite which, of course, made Songul exceptionally happy.

I do understand there are hurt feelings on all sides, I really do, but I also would not want to go through life with such anger towards another person.  The Onion was, of course, incredibly angry at The Turk’s mother for butting in her intended marriage (you can read more about that incident here) and yes I can sympathize with the other sisters having such acrimony with The Onion’s behaviour over the past years.  I just wonder if it isn’t time to bury the hatchet, put aside any old grudge and just get on with it.

Incidentally last night The Onion and her son (who I have decided for the future to call Capt. Awesome) came to our house for drinks and nibblies while Songul was over.  Yep, this has never happened before either.  I am definitely Switzerland.

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Regaip Kandili

Yesterday 1 May 2014 is an important day to Muslim Turks as it is Regaip Kandili (the night of Muhammad’s conception).  A Kandili (candle) is a Mosque Festival called such as the mosques will be illuminated (no doubt originally by candles although today probably not).  Last night Muslims prayed for forgiveness and hope. 

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There are in fact five holy evenings over the course of the Turkish Muslim calendar year and these five dates will change dependent upon the revolution of the moon for example Regaip Kandili will be celebrated on 23 April 2015.  The five holy evenings are:

Mevlid Kandili – the birth of Prophet Mohammad (12 January 2014)                     Regaip Kandili – the night of Muhammad’s conception (today 1 May 2014)               Miraç Kandili – Prophet Mohammad’s rising to the sky (25 May 2014)               Berat Kandili – forgiveness of the sins (12 June 2014)                                             Kadir Gecesi – the first appearance of the Koran to Prophet Mohammad (23 July 2014)

The Turk and his family are not particularly religious (although they always seem to be sacrificing animals) and they did not attend at the mosque last night however those practicing Muslims that attended worshipped and sang Mevlit which is a poem written for the birth of Prophet Mohammad. 

The Turk warned me that there would be many visitors to our home last night as part of the tradition of Regaip Kandili and it is normal practice to give Kandil Simidi or Lokma Tatlisi to visitors so yesterday Daughter (with me as her sous chef) decided to attempt making the Lokma Tatlisi for the expected visitors. 

Lokma Tatlisi is a Turkish fried sweet dough that is covered in a simple syrup (basically it is a doughnut with a syrup rather than sugar or cinnamon). 

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Daughter made a simple dough, 1 cup of warm water, 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of yeast.  Mixed together with a well-oiled wooden spoon (oiling the spoon is integral to the success of the Lokma).  She then left the dough for the length of the movie Mean Girls (firstly, how many times do I have to watch this movie?  Secondly, “That’s so fetch”.  Finally, it’s been 10 years since this movie was released?  What the hell happened to Lindsay Lohan?   Look at what drugs can do kiddies.) before getting back into it.

On our return Daughter prepared the syrup.  At this point I realised that we did not have enough sugar so Daughter sent her sous chef from house to house to get enough for the 3 cups required.  Most of the sugar is cubed so I was concerned that the syrup was not going to be successful.  Daughter added the sugar, 1 1/3 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Mixed until boiling and then left to simmer for about 20 minutes.

Preheating the vegetable oil (sous chef was getting nervous at this point) she spooned the dough in by the tablespoon, 2 minutes each side until they were a golden brown colour.  Drizzle syrup over these strange lumps of dough and eat.

Our Lokma were not pretty, they were not little balls covered in syrup.  They were weird looking pieces of dough, in fact they looked like fish pieces, one looked like a chicken’s foot, others chicken nuggets or honey chicken but I swear covered in the syrup they were still pretty tasty.  Daughter made enough for all of the family plus expected visitors and she proudly delivered them to each house last night.

I was pretty impressed with Daughter’s cooking although I was less than impressed with the mess that was left.  Syrup from one end of the kitchen to the other, and on the stairwell outside.  Thank you very much you little grub!