A Light At The End of The Tunnel…?

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As some of you remember from a few months ago, my husband and I have been in a delicate situation for some time.  We were playing a bit of the waiting game for a week or two, and after that was a lot of phone tag.  While we aren’t out of the woods just yet (and therefore can’t divulge any details…not even the topic of our misery), there is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, based on the last thing we had to do…blaaaah it is so hard to describe without details!  I can’t wait to sign on the dotted line and be able to explain everything!

Inshallah it will all be ok

G1 G2 G3 G4

Girl so cheesy…!

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Last Christmas my hubby bought me a cheese making kit for making mozzarella and ricotta (ricotta is basically lor).  While making ricotta was as easy as ever, I had a few issues when trying to make the mozzarella.  Simply put, my curds would not stick together! After several tries, however, I did succeed.

I don’t know, maybe I’m a weirdo, but I love adhering to some of the traditional roles of a house wife.  I love to cook, especially baking breads from scratch, making yogurt and pasta (makarna), making cheese… gardening is also a great joy of mine, although at the moment I am confined to planters on a balcony…I desperately want to learn to sew… and on another note, painting and art is another great passion of mine, and I look forward to being a stay-at-home mom in the future, inshallah.  Not to say that the “progressive” career woman should be shamed, of course not.  I used to think that was the path for me, but with time and experience I learned that, regardless of the job I was in, I did not feel fulfilled.  It’s a personal thing, I guess, and I- as a progressive and a feminist- think that women should do whatever they enjoy…be it career oriented or family oriented.

Anyway, back to the cheese.

cheese  Between the trouble shooting guide and my own food science background, I was able to figure out what had gone wrong during the various times my mozzarella was unsuccessful.  I hope any cheese makers out there find this helpful.

1.  Temperature

Basically, if your milk gets too hot when you are initially heating it, then your curds will be loose.  Temperature is one of the parameters used to denature the milk proteins, allowing them to clump up together and fall out of suspension.  For ricotta it doesn’t matter if it gets a little too toasty in that milk matrix…but for mozzarella, you need to hit that exact temperature, no more, no less.

2.  Time

Time goes hand-in-hand with temperature.  Basically, if you don’t let the initial temperature rise go slowly, you are likely to overshoot the temperature before your thermometer can catch up, or scald the milk at the bottom of the pan while the rest is still too cool.  Keep your burner at medium low.  It may take a while, but it is worth it in the end.

Also, don’t forget to let everything rest appropriately.  After adding the rennet, after cutting the curds, after stirring them, etc.  Follow the directions, and if anything, add MORE time.  Rome wasn’t built in a day…

3. Stretching

I guess this is kind of temperature also…when the time comes to immerse your curds in a water bath/ microwave to melt the curds and stretch them- you are doing just that…melting them!  I see time and time again that people get anxious and don’t let their curds get hot enough at this point.  I like to use a colander-like spoon (I don’t know what it is called- it is wide, flat, and has holes instead of slots), spreading the curds out fairly evenly instead of leaving them in a clump, then submersing the mass into the water bath.  They should look like a melty mass before you pull them back out.  When you stretch them, it should be so hot you almost scald your fingers… hey, wear gloves.
Also, don’t over-stretch the curds.  As soon as they look shiney (maybe three or four turns in the water bath, four or five stretches each time), round it off and throw the mozzarella balls into the ice bath. Over stretching results in a dry and rubbery cheese.

Good luck cheesy people!

Two Years Down…And Forever To Go!

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Two Years Down…And Forever To Go!

Two years ago today, my husband and I said I do.  As I like to think of it…two years down, and forever to go!

I very briefly mentioned our wedding in my “about page”… but what better time than now to talk about it in more detail? :).

I had met my husband my Sophomore year of college (undergraduate), and as time progressed and the commitment to our relationship became evident- my mother told me I wasn’t allowed to marry until after I graduated.  This idea, to be honest, was somewhat laughable, since my mother never stopped me from getting what I wanted before…but out of respect we both agreed to this limitation.  On my 22nd birthday my husband proposed, on bended knee, in my mothers kitchen- with my small family looking on.  I knew it was coming, he is a horrible secret keeper. Just the wrinkle at his brow told me our engagement would be soon.

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I gave myself (naively) less than a year to plan our wedding (the week after graduation- so technically I did graduate before we married..hah! Technicalities!),  I’m not sure what I was thinking.  With graduation looming, many courses to complete, and whatnot- I quickly became overwhelmed as the day moved closer.  It was at this time that I had to get real.  My maternal grandparents, mother, and brother, are the only ones who lived in South Carolina in my family, with my extended family located in Colorado and Missouri.  My mom, the youngest of five, is a bit of a black sheep in the family because she took off to South Carolina on a whim…and this estrangement transitioned to myself and my brother as well.  My father, who died when I was one year old, was also the youngest of five…but with his death came estrangement from his family as well.  My husband’s family couldn’t afford to fly to the US for a wedding, and we could not afford to pay for them ourselves. Even more, I couldn’t think of five friends I liked enough to pay for them to eat at our wedding.  Maybe I’m cynical, but we decided to elope.

Our elopement included a small ceremony at a bed and breakfast in South Carolina, with a handful of people, a toast, and cake.  My immediate family and one close friend came to the event.  That cake though.  Highlight of the day, and that’s not saying the day was bad…the cake was just that good.  The gay couple that ran the B&B performed the marriage and made the cake.

IMG_2863  After the ceremony and cake (CAKE! I CANT EVEN! IT WAS AMAZING!) we all went back to my mothers house for a reception- where a few more of my friends arrived and enjoyed time outdoors with a grill and lots and lots of burgers!  We used a few tents and tables from a charity organization my mother was volunteering for at the time (free of charge), tied a few streamers around, and gave out hand fans as souvenirs, since it was May in SC after all.  It was an amazing, intimate day.

In the past two years since our marriage, we moved to Florida, Hubby received a second Masters of Science (this one in Mechanical Engineering), and I will be receiving my Masters as well in August (inshallah).   I can’t wait to see what happens during our third year of marriage…

nazar boncuk w napkinsmudged

Inshallah we will be having our turkish wedding on our third anniversary :)

Difference(s) between Christianity and Islam

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Difference(s) between Christianity and Islam

Having been a Christian for the majority of my life, and having attended a christian school for ten years of it, I like to think I know a lot about Christianity.  On the other hand, I spent roughly three years studying Islam independently, learning as much as I could about the religion that belonged to my husband…and now me.  With this background I am frequently asked about the differences between Christianity and Islam…and although I’m not a scholar on either of these topics, there are nine things I have gleaned from my studies that I usually mention in every discussion about religion that comes up.

  Disclaimer: Anything wrong that I say here about Christianity or Islam is my own mistake, and does not reflect the religion in any way.  Anything true that I say here is thanks only to God, who has blessed me with the ability to learn and understand

1. Christianity is older than Islam.

The first and most obvious difference is the age of the faiths.  If you consider Jesus’ (salallahu alayhi wasalam) birth to be the year 0, and his death to be around 32AD, then you can consider Christianity to have started somewhere in that time. Islam, however, was founded by Muhammad (salallahu alayhi wasalam) around 500 AD.  Several hundred years after Jesus’ death/ the founding of Christianity was when Islam came about.  However, something I find very interesting in my studies is that, if what I read is true, no one claimed Jesus to be the son of God until nearly 500 years after his death…around the time of Muhammad’s revelations from God. Even further, this fits well with the intent of Islam, which was to clarify that God has no son, which is what modern Christians believe.

2. The original sin

Both Islam and Christianity agree that there was an original man and woman (english: Adam and Eve) who lived in a beautiful and rich place (aka Garden of Eden), free of sin and whatnot. However, the events that transpired there are significantly different between religions.  According to Christianity, there was a tree within the garden with fruit that would give you the knowledge of good and evil if you ate from it…and God told the original humans not to do so.  However, satan in the form of a snake approached Eve and tempted her into eating the fruit and bringing it back to her husband, Adam, to also eat.  For this reason they were expelled from the garden, and now all humans hold the burden of sin for all eternity (giving way to the necessity of salvation).  However, in Islam, the tree that was forbidden was the tree of immortality, and from that they should not eat (please note that God did not call this tree Immortal, it was Satan that used this term in order to tempt the humans).  Satan approached BOTH Adam and Eve together, and tempted them in equal measure. Although they were expelled from the garden for their transgressions, God (in his infinite compassion and mercy) forgave Adam and Eve of this sin, and all of humanity is not burdened with this original sin.

3. The heart of man

Given what we just discussed, it is now clear why Christians believe that everyone is born with sin in their hearts.  Due to the original sin, all humans are born with an evil desire in their hearts- and it is only God’s grace that lets us overpower them.  In Islam, though, humans are not cursed with this original sin.  Mankind is not born with dark hearts, on the contrary, Muslims believe that everyone is born with the desire to do good, to be good, and to seek out God.  It is the sin that lurks in the world that can cause us to turn away…but it is not our nature.

4.  Sacrifice for sin

So, with this curse upon mankind, Christianity explains that Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for this plague.  Without accepting his sacrifice, we are burdened with the price of sin- eternal death in hell.  Since Islam doesn’t adhere to the idea of original sin/ the curse of sin, there is no need for a blood sacrifice.  However, animal sacrifices may be performed as a show of piety and faith in Islam.  For instance, during Kurban Bayram (the sacrificing holiday), Muslims sacrifice an animal as a recollection of Abrahams willingness to sacrifice his own son at the command of God (but similar to both faiths, he did not).

Just to be clear, when Muslims sacrifice an animal there is a special ritual that must be done, and the animal must be slaughtered humanely and with no suffering.  The meat is to be distributed, 1/3 is for yourself, 1/3 is for your neighbor, and 1/3 is for the poor amongst you.

5. Who was Jesus

According to Christianity, Jesus was the son of God, born of a virgin for the purpose of ultimate sacrifice.  According to Islam, Jesus was a beloved prophet, born of a virgin, who worked miracles and healed the sick.  Jesus was never crucified, according to Islam, but instead someone similar in appearance was taken.  The Christian story of the resurrection explains how Jesus appeared as a gardener outside of his own tomb, with the stone rolled away so that he could escape.  Similarly, Islam says that Jesus did appear as a gardener after the crucifixion, but in order to not be discovered.

6. Forgiveness and Heaven

In order to achieve forgiveness for your sins and ascend to heaven when the time comes, Christians say you must accept Jesus as your personal savior, acknowledge his sacrifice, and then you are basically set.  Islam, however, says that there is no sure way to be forgiven and enter heaven.  Indeed, a hadith explains that even a man who prays and fasts and gives his due may stop doing these things on his last day…and not enter heaven.  Conversely, a man could murder, drink alcohol, lie, and cheat his entire life, and pray on his final day with a pure heart, and enter paradise.  It is only God’s decision who enter heaven and who does not- all we can do is the best that we can.  Only a pure heart with good intention can enter paradise, if God so wills it.  Doing acts of kindness and good deeds in your life while staying away from evil is all that a Muslim can do to curry favor with the Almighty.

7.  Hell

Either way you look at it, hell is a horrible, terrible place. There is not much difference in the descriptions of hell, but there is a difference in what it is there for.  In Christianity, if you go to hell you are damned for eternity, and you will never escape.  In Islam, hell is a place you go for your punishment…and when the punishment is over, you enter paradise.  Inshallah, all Muslims will eventually go to heaven, once their term is completed.  I have seen different opinions on if everyone goes to heaven eventually, but God is both fair and merciful, and I wouldn’t think it wrong to hope that everyone, regardless of faith, will see paradise one day.

8.  Intentions

As described in point 6, doing good deeds is critical for the life of a Muslim.  Even the intention of doing a good deed, if not completed, still counts as a good thing for you.  Having the intention of doing a bad deed, if you don’t follow through, is also good.  God commands Muslims to do things for the right reasons (e.g. praying to be seen as pious by others doesn’t count as good..but doing so as a command is), and intentions play a huge role in the daily lives of those following Islam.  In Christianity, any bad thoughts or feelings are seen as a symptom of a sinful heart and are counted as a sin against you.

9.  Logic vs Faith

In verse after verse, the Bible praises those who have faith.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  (Hebrews 11:1)

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind (James 1:6).

Christianity emphasis believing, even when there is no evidence there.  In fact, the one who believes despite evidence to the contrary is held in the highest regard.  However, Islam encourages the believer to seek knowledge.  It is true, the first command given from God to the Muslims was to read, and to learn.  Learning and education (not just the religious sort) is a requirement of every Muslim- man, woman, or child.

Read! In the name of your Rabb (Cherisher and Sustainer) Who created— created man, out of a leech-like clot: Read!  And your Rabb is Most Bountiful Who has taught (the use of)  pen.  He has taught man that which he knew not.” (Qur’an, 96:1-5)

“He grants wisdom to whom He pleases; and he to whom wisdom is granted receives indeed a benefit overflowing; but none will grasp the Message but men of understanding.”  (2: 269)

Many ayat are ended with praising “those who learn”, “those who think”, “those who know”, etc. This is one of many reasons that Muslims do not feel the disconnect from science that many churches often proclaim in Christianity.  Science, in Islam, is not against God, it is proof of Him.

These are only some of the differences between Islamic and Christian doctrine…but there are also many similarities.  If you liked this post or found it helpful, let me know and I can post more about Islam and Christianity.

With the burning rage of one thousand suns

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I hate bugs

Wait what?

Yeah, I said it.  I hate bugs with the burning rage of one thousand suns.

Erm…

  Ok, it may seem like a dramatic statement, but let me give you some context… when hubster and I were living together in Clemson, in our second apartment (we moved a lot), before he left for Florida, we had a situation.   There were a lot of bugs.  No, not just a lot…an infestation.  And not just any bugs, ROACHES (specifically, the little light brown ones eeeeehhhh).

When we first moved into the apartment it was just after coming back from Turkey.  It was an old apartment, like most in old college towns are, with plenty of cracks and crevices leading to the outside.  Even more, upstate SC is full of bugs because of its temperate climate.  And if that weren’t enough, we lived a stone’s throw from a wooded area and Lake Hartwell.  So it was a ripe location for pests.  Upon first moving in there wasn’t a lot to worry about- maybe a spider here or there, an occasional roach- and that’s to be expected in an old apartment, right? While I didn’t like bugs at the time, I could stomp out the occasional critter as they appeared without being too distraught.

As winter approached (we moved in in August, literally right after we came back from Turkey) the sightings of roaches increased but were predominantly limited to the kitchen.  Buy some roach hotels, spray some Raid and keep it clean- they soon disappeared.  Once winter left and the summer returned, our neighbors moved out…and it all hit the fan.

  Roaches…everywhere.

  EVERYWHERE!

  In my shoes by the door, under the coffee machine, crawling around the floor and up the walls, hiding in the edges of the carpet, CRAWLING ACROSS THE FLIPPIN’ CEILING AND FALLING ON OUR HEADS!

I couldn’t even sleep, there were roaches in the bedroom.  We don’t even eat in the bedroom! There was nothing in there for them!! We took turns sleeping with the lights on to protect each other from the creepy crawlies.  At this point, we even obtained a mouse that hung out in the pantry and chewed through every plastic bag we owned (and now I keep all of our food stuffs in glass jars…).  We eventually had to stay the night at friends’ houses because it was out of hand.  And the slumlord…ahem, landlady, wanted to blame us.  Later I found out that the ENTIRE building (consisting of four large apartments) was infested, and they didn’t even bother to call a professional exterminator.  Needless to say, we broke our lease early and got the hell out of there, moving to our favorite apartment- a condo- where I spent the majority of the time with a roommate after hubster left.

  That was three years ago, and I still live in a perpetual state of bug-terror.  Two cans of raid are sitting on the kitchen counter (probably not the safest option) for ready wielding.  Last year hubster woke me at 3am because there was a roach on my pillow. ON MY DASH DARN PILLOW!!! We tossed the entire apartment, no item left alone.  We found a few more and killed those evil creatures. And in Florida we have a complementary pest extermination service that sprays every apartment on a monthly basis, yet still I see them on occasion.

  Now that the term is concluding, people are moving again.  I have seen three roaches, and killed one, in the kitchen.  I like to tell myself it is the same little jerk bug that I saw previously that I killed last night.  It helps me sleep at night, ok. Just let me have that!

So yeah, I hate roaches and bugs…and I refuse to live in an old apartment ever again.
Böceklerden çok nefret ediyorum…ve eski bir dairede yaşamak istemiyorum. >:(

Happy Mothers’ Day/ Anneler Gunu Kutlu Olsun!

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I want to take just a brief moment to say Happy Mothers’ Day to all of those moms out there, and thank you for all that you do to make the world a better place through the next generation.

Also, thanks to my own Mom, who struggled through single parenthood to give me and my brother the best (and safest) shot in life.  I am always grateful for everything you’ve given up for us so that we could have more.

Lastly, thank to my mother in law, Anne (turkish word for Mom, to make the distinction) who accepted me without question into her family when I showed up on her doorstep in Turkey with her eldest son.  Despite the huge differences in language and culture, she loves me as a daughter and I love her as a mom.

  So Happy Mothers’ Day/ Anneler Gunu Kutlu Olsun <3  Give your mom a hug today.

  Kirk bir kere mashallah


A Trip to the Oldest City…

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If you’ve been following my Instagram, then you would know that the hubster and I took a trip down to St. Augustine, FL to see the historic city!  For those of you who didn’t know, St. Augustine is the oldest city in the US.  It was colonized by Spain before England began their colonization of the rest of the east coast.

It was a beautiful and perfect day for the trip! In St. Augustine it was blue skies and mid 70s.  Just driving towards the ocean gives me a thrill, what about you?  Fortunately for us, we managed to snag a parking spot just as a car was pulling out.  Did I mention- FREE parking on Sundays?!  That’s been my experience in most cities, but it is still exciting every time!

StAugustine  We arrived in the old city around 11am, so we wanted to do a little walking around before lunch time.  We were able to park in the heart of the historic downtown area, so going left or right led to adventures and beautiful sites, either way!  Even though we did procure a map, I found that wandering aimlessly still resulted in many things to see.

left right

After a good deal of walking we decided to settle in a shady, grassy space and enjoy a picnic lunch that I had prepared.  While eating out when you travel is a lot of fun, we decided we would rather be frugal for a meal and splurge on a treat later in the day.  We stopped by a small shop and purchased cold coke and wandered into the Plaza de la Constitucion, where we enjoyed our very Turkish picnic of boiled potatoes, eggs, fresh tomato, and cheese.  I probably should have prepared some borek, but in all honesty I was too busy Saturday to do it.

Plaza de la Constitucion

While walking around we saw several historic sites, such as the St. Augustine cathedral, old city roads, historic houses, and a monument to the discoverer of Florida- Ponce De Leon!  We eventually walked to the coast where we saw the Bridge of Lions, an old spanish ship memorial, and simply took in the beauty.  A pod of dolphins made a quick appearance, but disappeared into the water before we could take a picture…

Bridge of Lions boatsSt.Augustine cathedralLions of the bridge
spanish ship
 St.George streetBut of course we saved the best for last… the Castillo de San Marcos, aka Ft. Marion.  This location has been designated a national park and is the home of many stories and lore about the old Castillo soldiers and, later, the Civil War.  It was hard to believe that someone had climbed the same steps and touched the same cannons 450 years ago that we had touched that moment!

drawbridge cannons castillo courtyard Shadows of history CastilloAnd at 2.30p we were able to watch a weapons demonstration!  The reenactors marched on to the gun deck with their muskets and in full uniform with a drummer tapping out the beat.  After a giving a brief history, they proceeded to show us drills for musket use and cannon firing!  They called the commands in old Castillon spanish, but some of the words were similar to present day spanish. (Edit:  I intended to post videos of the drills, but APPARENTLY WordPress only lets people who pay for premium do that so…thanks a lot, WordPress.)

weapons demo

Shop talk

After the demonstration we had decided we had enough fun for one day.  We both walked away with a sunburn (and a hijab tan line for me..) and ice cream in our hands, but it was completely worth it!  Even when your life is full of uncertainties and problems, it is very nice to be able to take a day off for yourself and just enjoy what you can.