Monday, September 10, 2012

Birthday boys

We've finally finished our birthday season. From the first week of August to the first week of September we have four of our five child birthdays and one anniversary (which got completely overlooked this year.) Brannick's is next after Delaney. His birthday was rather low-key, kind of like him. We had his favorite Cafe Rio pulled pork salads and a super moist chocolate cake with cookie dough ice cream. Because he is waiting anxiously for the new kindle fire to come out, presents were small and few.
But we did spend the evening together as a family and even had Geoff there to cut up a bit during picture taking. Brannick started his job at Pizza Hut right after his birthday and has been a working man ever since. Luckily they are good about letting him have Sundays off but I think he even got some over-time last week he worked so many hours!
He is pretty excited that his work uniform came in his favorite color. He's one handsome dude and I'm so proud of him. Now that he is getting closer to leaving home I realize more and more how much I will miss him.  He makes me laugh everyday. Granted, it's sometimes when I really need him to be serious and do his schoolwork or other task but I love his sense of humor and his happy outlook.

Last of the birthday bunch is Evan, who turns double digits this year! His mean mom did make him do some school work on his birthday but I also took him out to the Thursday market and the Turkish commissary - neither of which he had seen yet. I am getting to spend much more time with Evan than I have the last few years as he decided to be homeschooled this year. He is a smart and willing learner and I enjoy spending the days with him. Although he feels like he is not growing nearly fast enough I think he is well on his way to becoming a wonderful young man.

Carson had come up with a great idea for Evan's birthday and since I am pretty birthday-ed out by the time his rolls around I was happy to go along with it. Carson and Delaney created a scavenger hunt to lead Evan to six different places around the base to find his presents. Then we rented this Fred-Flintstone mobile tandem bike from the Outdoor Rec Center for our scavenger hunt.

Since Brannick was working that night, the first clue lead us to the BX, where Brannick gave Evan his first present.  We had a great time and actually got a pretty decent workout pedaling around the base. We even ran into Geoff's boss all dressed up for a formal function. That sighting became the talk of the clinic the next day. Since we rented the bike for 24 hours, Carson and Evan spent the next afternoon riding around the neighborhood giving rides to all Rory's friends.  Brannick even got to go for a spin before he had to head off to work. He can't wait until his tricycle comes with the rest of our stuff. (not kidding)

After we had collected all the presents we headed back home to enjoy Ayten's dinner, which we shared with Geoffrey's co-worker, Dr. Jones. By Evan's birthday no one wants cake anymore so we celebrated with some brownies and called it good. A game of Uno-spin capped off the evening and that ends birthday season! Mine is next but not until next month.  I wonder what we could rent for that?

Introducing the cobbler's elf. . .

This is Ayten - the sweet Turkish grandma lady who comes and works magic in my house every Thursday.  I haven't had someone come and clean since Geoff was in medical school and I had a baby and two toddlers.  It was wonderful then and it's no less so now. Having every room of my entire house clean AT THE SAME TIME is like a miracle. And being able to teach school, grocery shop and generally get things done WHILE this is being accomplished is beyond fabulous!

Ayten washes all the laundry - including the bed linens, and she irons. She also cleans the kitchen, wipes out my frig, cleans my stove drip pans, cleans the bathrooms and the showers and sweeps and mops the whole house. (I would hire her just for that.) But best of all - she cooks. Always at the beginning of the day so she can thoroughly clean the kitchen afterward. So far she has made rice pilav - which is this amazing version of Rice-A-Roni, you know, rice and short little pasta sticks seasoned with lots of chicken bullion. She has also made chicken tava which is a baked dish with potatoes, onions, tomatoes and chicken thighs.  I asked her if chicken breasts were okay to get for this dish. She grabbed her upper leg and said, "I think this is better for you." Hee hee. So I bought the thighs.

Last week she made two kinds of yufka. I had a hard time figuring what I needed to buy for this one as I had no clue what yufka was or the right cheese to buy. So in the end I gave her some lira and she bought the ingredients. Yufka is a thin dough like huge tortillas. She made one kind by rolling up the turkish white cheese inside the tufka and then frying them. Those are called cigarette yufka. The other kind she made with chopped fresh spinach and ground beef layered between the yufka and baked. Both were so delicious. I had found some of the pomegranate syrup that the Turks put on salads with oil and had her toss a salad of fresh tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce with it. That was Evan's birthday dinner.  This week she is making stuffed eggplant and peppers. Eventually I want to help her cook so I can learn to make these dishes too. But for now, its just so great to be relieved of cooking duties once a week.

She speaks broken English (again, much better than my Turkish). Most of the time its okay but we've had a few small issues. I can not figure out what kind of scrubbies she wants me to buy to clean the drip pans with and don't know how to tell her that housing will give me a new set when we are ready to move out so don't stress too much about them.  I've bought three types of scrubbies already and none of them are right. Also, I can't seem to communicate that those nubby dryer balls are supposed to go in the dryer. When I try she keeps talking about checking the children's pockets before she washes. But neither are very important so it's fine.

She loves Rory especially. When I asked if I could take her picture she immediately grabbed Rory and put him up on the counter next to her to be in the picture. Its actually useful because you can see how tiny she is. And no, she doesn't clean in those clothes. She keeps a set of cleaning clothes and shoes here at the house but she does always keep a scarf around her hair.

And yes, I do that crazy thing where you run around the house picking up because the maid is coming and she might think you are a slob! But in the end it's a good thing. I want her to be able to clean surfaces not spend her time picking things up off of those surfaces. And no, the magic doesn't last all week between her visits. (sigh) But it certainly gives me a huge leg up on trying to keep on top of the mess and chaos.

I wish everyone could have an Ayten.  I wish you could have one.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Hello Baby!

Yes, he is sitting on a giant cabbage. 
This week was the first week of school, which means I am no longer a lady of leisure (hah!). But I did steal away for an hour or so on Thursday to visit the market with my friend Karen. Behind one stall we saw three little boys eating their lunch - a chopped up mess of vegetables with a loaf of bread and some hunks of cheese. They were very confused as to why we wanted to take their picture and kept getting up to pose. But we finally convinced the younger two to sit back down at their meal.

I love that they are eating this wonderful fresh food for their lunch. I love that one of the boys is sitting on the hugest cabbage I have ever seen.
Here are some of those big cabbages. Karen assures me they will get even bigger.

Because I know just what my mother is thinking I have to point out a couple of things.
1) The produce here tastes SOOOO much better than it does in the U.S. You just wouldn't believe how flavorful everything is and its cheap! You don't have to pay extra for 'organic' produce. If we fed these kids US produce, they probably wouldn't eat it.
2) These kids, as adorable as they are - were chubby. It might not look like it from the picture but they were. So don't talkto me about curing America's child obesity problem. But yes, kids in the US should eat more like these kids. We all should.

Here is the best part.  After we had finished our shopping and were walking back to car we passed this stall again. The oldest boy, who is not in the picture and was only maybe 10 or 11, runs up to the edge of the stall and calls out, "Hello Baby!" to me. His friends all think this is hilarious and giggle like teenage girls.  No idea where he learned that English phrase but he was very excited to have a chance to use it. 

We also got some AMAZING peaches (sheftali)! Sooo good!
There is cereal under there but its just the vehicle. I wish I had my canning stuff so I could can up a bunch of these.

That night we had our first power outage. Apparently all of Adana was down for a bit. We had no flashlights or candles but all of us have a flashlight app on our ipods so we were good. Thank you technology. Rory was pretty freaked out so we went on a walk to try and find the hedgehog that Geoffrey and I had seen on our walk earlier in the week. We walked back to the place where we had seen him which happened to be near a guard tower. Seeing the silhouette of a Turkish guard with his gun didn't help Rory's anxiety level much. And the hedgehog was a no-show.  But on the way home Delaney did catch a frog which cheered up Rory. Frog hunting is something of an obsession with the neighborhood kids.
Most of the neighborhood was outside so we visited a bit until the lights came back on. I guess that happens pretty frequently here so we will have to get some candles and such (or just make sure our ipods are charged up.)

Geoffrey has been working so hard all week. He spent last Friday, a down day, at work all day and has worked late several nights this week. Today is Saturday and he is at work at a meeting. But last night he and I went to dinner near the lake in Adana. The lake is huge and all along the shore there are restaurants and parks. We went to a very nice restaurant. The maitre 'd or head waiter spoke passable English. (I never criticize anybody's English as its always better than my Turkish and I think English would be a bugger of a language to learn.) He liked to say Bon Appetite a lot. So I guess he is tri-lingual!!

They brought out a Turkish salad which is tomatoes and red peppers and cucumbers and herbs, bread, hummus, and several vegetable condiments like spiced onions and finely chopped tomatoes in olive oil. There was no menu. He said, "I am menu. Man Menu." So Geoffrey ordered lamb and I ordered grilled chicken. Both were simply prepared and excellently seasoned. For dessert they brought us a fruit plate. "Fruit plate house-ling" which meant it was on the house. And this other dish that was like shredded wheat soaked in honey with sliced pistachios and served with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Very good. I have seen the shredded wheat bread at the Turkish commissary. Maybe I can get Ayten to teach me how to make it.
Most of those dishes were brought out with the salad.

This was just a part of our view. We were up high on a hill over-looking this enormous, beautiful lake. It was a very enjoyable evening.