Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Murray Turkey Christmas

This was our best Christmas in Turkey. Cam worked Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day last year (first time in 27 years of marriage)so it was lovely to have him home this year. Christmas Day we had a visit from the electricians. A fuse had died on the 23rd, but because of our overnight trip to Tekirdag we had to delay their visit. They came when they promised to come, diagnosed the problem quickly and were back with a part in no time. We rely on electricity for heat, so Nicole's room and the living room were very chilly after two days without power.
Finally! Mom let us put presents under the tree!

December 23 we went to Tekirdag and the next day to the theatre for:

The Desolation

of Smaug

in 3D! 
We were the only people at this showing which was in English with Turkish subtitles.  Oddly, all the Orc speak was translated into Turkish but not into English. Tickets for the movie were about CAD$4.00 per person.

We actually have a fireplace. It's in Nicole's bedroom and serves as the headboard for her bed so stockings were hung elsewhere!

We have coal too - but Santa didn't fill anyone's stocking with it!

Dad's stocking was filled with the good stuff! (Candy!!)

We had a roaring fire, and Christmas music courtesy of YouTube and a Lego Frosty (Thanks Sam!)

Each of the kids played "Santa" delivering the presents.

Dad's birthday fez from Selcuk made a great Santa hat.

Lots of goodies!

Nicole and Sam experimenting with their sticky throwing ball thingys.

I cooked a leg of lamb for supper.  After doing it twice before, I got cocky and tried a new recipe.  The marinade turned the outside black and didn't really add anything to the flavour. Next time I'll stick to basics.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Directions to the bathroom

We went to a big restaurant today for breakfast. I told Mom, Dad and Nicole how to get to the bathroom because I had been there before with Dad. 

To get to the bathroom you have to go through a door, down some stairs right after, then you come to a platform, turn right, turn right again, go down the stairs, walk a little ways into the basement, turn left, out the door and the bathroom is outside!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Decorating for Christmas

 Well, it's that time of year again, and we've done some decorating for Christmas:

 Christmas wreath 

 Some lights

 Our 'Art clothesline'

 Our tiny little tree

Sock snowman!!

 And you know, a Bionicle hanging from the ceiling with a present.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Ask a question and . . .

Recently, on one of our almost weekly trips to the local Pazar for the fruit and vegetables portion of our grocery shopping, Sam pointed to a large pile of what looked like overgrown green onions and asked “what are those Dad?”.  “Leeks” I replied. In all innocence he then asked “What are they used for?”  “People eat them.  In soups and salads, mostly” I replied.  What do I know? I am an engineer not a chef.  Then came the inevitable question...  “What do they taste like?”  So how do you answer that?  I mean really? 
If you’re me, you invest a whole dollar and come home with enough leeks to make a couple batches of soup that feed our family of 5 3 hearty lunch meals.  After a little Google research, I came up with a recipe I can fake my way through.  Personally, I like leek and potato soup...
The ingredients hunted and gathered:

3 Leeks, 2 potatoes, half a bud of garlic, 1tsp chicken stock, 1 tbsp flour, ½ l water, 1 l milk, salt and pepper to taste.
A few minutes at the chopping board and the prep is done.

Fry/saute the leeks in the pot till almost clear. Add garlic.  Add the flour and cook for a couple minutes, stirring constantly.  When the flour is cooked, add the potatoes, chicken stock, and milk. Bring to a gentle simmer stirring occasionally.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer until the potatoes are done or until the troops are ready for lunch.  

 Poof!  Lunch is ready.

Must be OK.  Lunch conversation is a bit shy until a bowl or two is empty.....

Sam doesn’t ask many questions in the Pazar anymore though.  Hmmmmm.

JW Another Feral Dog

One of the local feral dogs has decided our yard is his yard. Cam named him "J.W." after a dog in "The Teacher's Funeral". When I go for a walk he goes with me.  This isn't as endearing as it sounds, because it means that he crosses the mini territories of other neighbourhood dogs and causing some loud unfriendly doggy disagreements. On one occasion, he even chased down and killed a chicken on one of our walks. I hoped he'd choose a new home when we were away last weekend, but he's still here.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I should have been a travel agent

I've reviewed hundreds of hotels on line in the past month.  I should have been a travel agent! Here are some things to consider if you're booking a room in Turkey.

It's often possible to book online through the hotel's website.  If you want to speak to someone at the hotel plan to call between 9 am and 5 pm.  Ask for " reservations" in English.  Speak slowly and ask short questions.  Not every Turk who speaks English will understand your dialect, accent or colloquialisms. I don't recommend having used it exactly once. I'd rather ask questions of a live person than be mislead by reviews and info on the internet.

Location:  It's nice to be in the heart of the action except when that means street noise around the clock and poorly fitting windows. A free shuttle can save you the price of cab fare.

Price: Our family of five needs two rooms.  Hotels don't usually have family suites. Two rooms = more $ Hotel rooms come in all price points and you get what you pay for.  We prefer hotels which cater to business travelers.  The staff speak good quality English and can help us figure out where to go and how to get there. The bellman at our last hotel helped me figure out the difference between the Istanbul aquariums I had heard about.  If you choose an American chain or an airport hotel expect the level of security to be extra ordinary. Not only are people and their bags x-rayed, but cars pulling up to the hotel are inspected as well.

Swimming pools: Many hotels have outdoor pools but they are unheated and closed between October and April.  Some have indoor pools. Some have hot tubs.  Some Turkish hotels also have hot springs water either in their spa facility or even piped into the rooms. Extra charges may apply. Bring a swim cap if you plan to swim. If your hotel requires a cap you won't have to buy their pricey uncomfortable plastic one.

Bathtubs are not standard equipment in Turkish hotel bathrooms. Some hotels have both, but most have a shower only.

Smoke free rooms: I forgot to request this at the last hotel.  Turks love to smoke!

Included breakfast: This is a time and money saver for us.  Breakfast is a meal I can happily skip but it's important to get food into the kids because who knows when, where and what lunch might be. Although now that they're acclimatized to Turkish food, this is less of a problem.

Free wifi: Sometimes there is a surcharge be sure to check.

Free Parking: Space is at a premium. Make sure you understand before booking if there is a cost for parking and where parking is located. Free parking is often any place you can find on the street near your hotel.

My number one hotel pet peeve is the noise housekeeping and other guests make in the hallways. Just because you're up and at'em at the crack of dawn doesn't mean I have to be awake too.  I've taken to hanging the do not disturb sign on our door as a friendly reminder and I also nag my children to be quiet in the halls.