Beach-less Week at the Beach 

If you follow my Instagram,  you’ll know I just got back from a week at the beach! 


 But I never actually got to… You know… Go to the beach. 


The struggle of being a not-fully-functioning adult is that you are at the whim of your caretakers. For the weekdays, they were my in laws.  Love them to death, but there’s only so much old folks can do before they get tuckered out. I got to look at the water but not actually put my feet in the sand. 


Hubby joined us on the weekend, but he slept the majority of the day so we couldn’t go to the beach then either. We did spend the entire night (until 3am) out on the town, but still no beach! We went back Sunday in the afternoon to beat the traffic. 

It was still a lot of fun! 

But hopefully we will get another chance soon. The summer is still young! 

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A Winter in Review (2015)

As those of you who’ve been with me for a while already know, these last few months have constituted my first winter in Turkey!  I was very excited to see what the cold months were like (since my previous Turkey experience had been a summer trip in 2011).  Now that the temperatures are suitably warm (mid 70s/low 80s) I feel that it is an appropriate time to summarize my thoughts on winters in Turkey.

Let me start by saying… Winter isn’t very Turkish in my opinion.

Uh, how can a country be anything other than what it is?

Well,  like I said before… My first (and at the time, only) experience in Turkey before had been during the summer.  For that reason,  Turkey translated to:
The smell of the ocean
Watermelon and white cheese
Late nights spent with family/friends
Picnics and day trips
Midye and mangal
Windows and balcony doors open wide
Snatching figs off trees when no one is looking

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And of course, none of these things happen during the winter.  It’s simply too cold.  I couldn’t even pick up the ocean smell from the window until the weather warmed up recently.  However, there are other winter things that are unique to Turkey. Honestly, it’s kind of a mixed bag.

First off, here in Izmir, we only saw a flurry of snow twice.  Nothing that lasted longer than five minutes though.  Sure,  it snowed in the mountains and stuff, but nothing I was able to enjoy.  It’s kind of ironic, actually.  The thing I love most about Turkish summers (a lack of rain), translates to a lack of something I would have liked to see (snow).

But even without the snow,  it got pretty chilly!  With a lack of central heating,  we were limited to the soba (coal furnace).  I’m pretty sure I shared that with you guys earlier.  While the toasty warm room was a delight, the freeze-your-buns-off temperature in the rest of the house (including our bedroom and the bathroom) made daily life a bit uncomfortable. Hello two layers of long-johns under sweatpants.  We didn’t go anywhere or do much of anything because it was so cold (and my in laws kept getting sick). It’s just not the season for activity.

Eating new things was fun! I enjoyed roasting chestnuts on the top of the soba.  Greens like spinach and roots like celeriac were plentiful and I enjoy them immensely.  But there’s nothing that compares to summer foods like roasted eggplant and fresh green beans…

So… I think it’s fair to say that winter is not my favorite season (but it never was, anyway).  It’s nice to not sweat your brains out, but you miss out on so many fun things when the weather is too cold!

Helloooo spring/summer!! I’m ready for you!

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From farm to fork

One thing I really love about Turkey, is that the process of obtaining food is rather direct compared to the US food system.  Farmers markets are gaining popularity in America, but they are still not considered the norm.  However, going to the pazar to purchase your veggies and fruits is quite common in Turkey.  For this reason you get fresher, more tasty produce, as I talked about before.  However, the issue of seasonality does come into play.  For that reason, my mother-in-law (whom I shall call anne, the turkish word for mom) has been teaching me methods and techniques in order to conserve the summer’s bounty for winter.

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For example,  I spent one entire afternoon stringing up peppers and eggplants to dry outside in the Mediterranean sun.  While I’m not sure what the peppers will be used for, I am familiar with the hollowed out eggplant shell, which will become dolma (spiced rice stuffed veggie) in the winter.  I also helped with making tomato sauce, and will soon learn the art of making tomato paste and tarhana (a specialty soup, made and dried for the winter).

I hope to have some recipes and instructions for you soon, inshallah!

Summer heat

I’ve been wearing the hijab since February, so this is my first summer of complete covering.  I’ve been scouring the web for ways to beat the heat-  which is very intense here.  It’s been climbing to mid 90s as of late, and it’s only May…  here I will highlight the bits and pieces that I have collected from other sisters, and also things that I have found myself.

1.  Choose your fabrics carefully

Let’s face it, some fabrics just aren’t going to work.  Some tend to retain moisture or not let it pass, aka, breathe. One fabric you should DEFINITELY avoid (in my experience) is polyester.  This can be incredibly hard since polyester has taken over the textile industry.  But maybe it works for you, but I know for me- I sweat like crazy!

Fabrics that I personally ADORE are: rayon, cotton, and viscose. In that order.  I know you see cotton and say “YES! NATURAL!”, but be wary- the thickness is very important!   Additionally, nylon is fantastic for swimming attire. Also, if you google breathable fabrics you will see that acrylic is listed- but I’ve found that it doesn’t breath for me at all- I bought a fun ombre scarf that was acrylic- and boy do I get sweaty!

2. Denim jackets

Denim/ jean jackets are a MUST have staple for the summer hijabi wardrobe.  I know, I know, it seems they could make you hotter- but being cotton, it DOES breath.  Additionally, you don’t see pit stains in these bad boys!  My go-to cover up is a denim jacket!  Be sure it’s fairly loose, however, to insure a good breeze.

3.  Tanktops and low cut shirts

WAIT!  WAIT! Just hear me out!!

When coupled with a cover-up (thin cardigan or denim jacket) and a properly wrapped scarf (and LOTS of safety pins for securing it to your shirt),  these open clothes are perfect for catching the breeze and allowing evaporation of your persperation.  But you have to be careful and apply plenty of safety pins to keep everything in check!  I end up using more pins for my clothes/scarf attachment rather than for attaching my scarf to my head! But it is SO worth it!

4.Sport headbands

A good 4″-5″ headband is a GREAT alternative to an underscarf on a hot day- allowing for more air to pass over your scalp.  Using berretts (hair clips) to secure the band to your head will keep it in place all day, while still being able to secure your scarf to your head.  Additionally, dont be afraid to stick a pin into your hair tie in your bun, it works just as well as sticking it in an underscarf!  (I also suggest using mousse or hair spray to help slick back your baby hairs when using this technique.)

5. Linen pants and maxi skirts/ dresses

  Linen pants are a miraculous joy that jumped out and surprised me.  I was looking for some loose and flowing pants at a thrift shop and was having no luck.  However,  a relaxed, wide legged olive colored linen trouser was hanging on the rack.  Well, I needed SOMETHING, so I tried it on….and fell in LOVE!  I LOVE LINEN!  This is a STAPLE.  For days that the wind is too strong for a dress, wide legged linen trousers allow for the cool passage of the breaze on your legs but the coverage is still there, and it isn’t see-through.

Maxi skirts and dresses speak for themselves.  They are very comfortabole and modest.  Be sure to wear a slip, though, I have yet to find a maxi skirt/dress that isn’t a little transparent.

Inshallah this helps sisters as much as it helps me.

#hijabiproblems

Alcohol-less Sangria

One of the hardest parts of living a more halal life is giving up alcohol.  I won’t lie to you- I’ve been quite the fan.  In order to make this transition easier, I started looking up mocktails (alcohol-less cocktails!).  The first thing I tried was a tonic and lime…no vodka for this girl!  I found I liked it, so I went to good old Uncle Google for somemore ideas.

I looooove sangria (or should I say, loved), so when I saw this recipe- I knew I had to try it.  I already had two glasses of it today! The hubby loves it too!  This means…I must share!

Deliciously halal
Deliciously halal
Ingredients:
  • 2c black tea (2c hot water, 2 packets of black tea)
  • 1/2c sugar
  • 3c fruit juice (cran grape is good)
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 lime, sliced
  • 2 plums, sliced (or any other fruit you like!)
  • dash of cinnamon
  • serve with: club soda
Preparation:
  1. Boil water and steep 2 bags of black tea in 2c of water for about 5 minutes
  2. Add sugar and a dash of cinnamon to the tea, mix and let it dissolve
  3. Put the tea in a pitcher with the sliced fruit and juice. Stir well
  4. Allow the mix to sit for at least an hr in the fridge, best is overnight
  5. Serve with a splash of club soda and ice
Afiyet olsun!

Turkish BBQ/ Mangal

Highs in the 70’s, clear blue skies, and the beginning of spring break…This calls for only one thing.

MANGAL!

Mangal (also known as turkish style bbq) is a right of passage for anyone involved in turkish culture. It is the highlight of the spring/summer season and is, definitely, a must. My day has become a little more bright (if that is possible on this sunny day) just knowing mangal will happen! And the best part is that it is SO easy!

Without further ado, the recipe:

  • Deboned chicken (thighs or flattened or butterflied breasts)
  • Olive oil
  • cumin
  • salt
  • paprika
  • chili powder (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Cut the fat from the chicken and save it for greasing the grill
  2. Dredge the chicken (now flattened/ thin) in olive oil until it is all coated
  3. Mix the salt and spices together on a plate (use chili powder if you like your chicken spicy). Make a lovely pile, don’t be stingy! (Usually my ratio is about 1:3:2:1alt:cumin:paprika:chili but I eye ball it)
  4. Place the chicken in the spices so they stick to it. Rub the spices all over the chicken with your hands (the chicken will now be tinted red)

Now it is ready for the grill!

Even the act of grilling mangal is a little different than the traditional american style. For instance, you don’t use charcoal at all when you grill mangal, simply wood. However, we usually put a few briquets to get the fire started with the wood bundle. You should wait until the wood begins to ash before you throw on the mangal.

As the fire is burning, use the fat from the trimmed chicken to grease the grill. This will keep your chicken from sticking and pulling apart.

Cook the mangal on both sides until it is done.

Typically when we cook mangal, we will also throw some onion slices, cubanelle peppers (mild), and sometimes mushrooms on the grill as well.

Mangal is more than a meal, it is an EVENT!   Have a turkish-styled BBQ on your porch, at your friends house, or even the lake!

Afiyet olsun 🙂