Getting back on my feet

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That’s Baki off to the right (in a Bad Piggies t-shirt), behind his friend Lexi, in red…

There is a big Lunapark in Antalya, right on the way from the apartment to the garden. Baki used to beg to go there every single time we passed it. Luckily, his persistence wore out, but he does pipe up on a regular basis to make sure we remember that he really really likes to go on the rides.

Well, in my last post I said that March is important because it has my birthday in it, but actually there is a far more important birthday this month and that is, of course, Baki’s. I consider it a special day for myself too, because it’s the day I became a mother (I know that sounds cheesy, but there you are).

We had planned to have a party for his whole class, doing something outdoorsy. But Baki really wanted to celebrate before his school holiday starts on his actual birthday, and I couldn’t imagine pulling a party together on such short notice. So as a compromise, I offered to take him and a few friends to the Lunapark.

It was actually a little controversial among his classmates that he did not invite the whole class, and I felt pretty bad about putting him in that position. But it sounded like the kids really discussed it, and then I didn’t feel so bad. It can be good to throw a spanner in the works once in a while. I just hope he doesn’t get ostracized from other parties… I told him we’d do a party for everyone next year, if he wants.

Well, five kids in an amusement park is an easy A. The kids had a whale of a time. One disadvantage of the Lunapark, as one of Baki’s friends’ moms pointed out, is that there are a lot of rides for really little kids, and lots of rides for teens, but not as much for kids Baki’s age. Luckily, her daughter Lexi knew the ins and outs of the place and guided us to every ride they could go on. She was absolutely fearless, and gaily threw up her hands and screamed on the rides while Baki and the boys looked green around the gills.

I really loved hanging out with Baki and his friends, and seeing their boundless energy (though I wish they didn’t have to run everywhere – what’s wrong with walking??) and the great camaraderie between them. We stopped for a snack, and it was so much fun to listen in on their conversation, with all of the kids talking at the same time and somehow managing to communicate with one another. Another thing I liked was that when some of the kids were too scared to go on a ride, they just said so, and no one made a big deal out of it. 

I kept it short and sweet — we were there for about an hour and a half and then we went out for ice cream nearby. I think it is a good thing that we did it that way, because by the time I drove Baki back out to the garden, I was half demented with tiredness. I made dinner in a daze: fish in salt – a meal you can actually make in your sleep. I’m living proof!

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Now that that’s over with, I am making my favorite tonic — beef bone broth. We stopped at the butcher on the way back into town today and they had soup bones, so I got a huge, 5 pound beef bone. I am just using half of it. Bone broth is my new obsession; it is insanely good for you — promoting gut health (including an ability to help heal the disgusting sounding Leaky Gut), and joint health of course, plus it is good for your skin and hair and nails, and it’s got valuable amino acids in it that you don’t get from muscle meats. There is a summary of its benefits here.

To make this elixir, I use a liter/quart of water for each pound of bones, and add an onion (unpeeled, which gives a lovely rich color), a carrot, a few tablespoons of vinegar (to leach the minerals out of the bones) and then anything else I have that seems like a good idea at the time – parsley stems, peppercorns, bay leaves, celery, etc. In this batch I have dried mushroom for umami, a chunk of ginger, star anise, and peppercorns. I cook it in my new best friend, the slow cooker. My slow cooker can cook for up to 20 hours, so I do it for the whole twenty on Low Heat and then when it’s finished, I run it again so it cooks for 40 hours total. But I dip into it while it is cooking. And of course, the stove is also an option, though I would feel nervous having the stove on while I slept or was out of the house.

After it’s done, I strain it into a big bowl and then, because I prefer a broth that isn’t fatty, I refrigerate it and then lift off the solid fat after a few hours. The broth is like jello when it gets cold from all the gelatin in the bones. (When I do chicken bone broth, I throw in some chicken feet for extra gelatin, since chicken stock tends not to solidify as much as beef. Yes, mom, I found a use for all of those feet from our chickens until we perfect our chicken feet recipe!)

My mom and I always keep stock in the freezer, but I never realized what a healthy, healing food it was. A cup of this in the morning with some salt and pepper makes me feel ready to be shot out of a cannon! Be warned, though, it is not everybody’s cup of tea — Ali hates it on its own. Never fear though, if you have good bone broth a hearty soup or gravy is never far off, plus it adds great flavor to braises.

Bye bye, baby

A couple of days ago, Kaya woke early, at about 6. I had things to do, so I carried him on my back in the baby carrier while I did some chores and got breakfast together. He fell back asleep, lulled by the constant movement and by being so close (he’s going through a clingy phase lately). I put him back down on the bed and he slept until close to 9, which is probably unprecedented.
Baki woke at around 8, rubbing his eyes, and my mom came up the hill shortly afterwards. She couldn’t believe how quiet it was – she had even heard the sound her phone makes when she took a photo on her way up. “Kaya must be the noisy one,” she said.
Today, we all got in the car and took my mom and Baki to the airport; Baki is going to day camp in New York for a month, and he’s staying with Grandma. We had to get up early to make it on time, but the boys were still thrilled to be at the airport – all of those big, flat spaces just call out to them, “Run amok on our smooth even surfaces!” Luckily, they also found time for staying still.

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It wasn’t long before it was time to go and Ali, Kaya and I stood at the bottom of the escalator watching them go up. Ali and I smiled widely and waved, even as we silently wondered what on earth we were thinking. And Kaya called out to Baki, disliking the fact that he was not following him, as he so enjoys.

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We came straight back to the garden and busied ourselves with watering, playing with Kaya, and all the usual daily business. But I kept stopping and noticing how very quiet it was. Kaya, although he spent a fair amount of time calling for Baki today, is not the noisy one at all. It’s the combination of the two of them, like baking soda and vinegar, that creates their wild froth of laughter, bargaining, bickering and wailing.
Happy trails, Baki – we miss you!

Gold medal slob

I remember when I gave my notice at work before moving to Antalya, I mentioned in passing to my boss that I was hoping to learn how to spin wool. He commented that I ought to have plenty of time for that, living in the middle of nowhere. As it turns out, although I did start to spin wool into yarn, it was more out of sheer determination than an excess of free time. Living as we do, off the grid and miles away from the nearest store, I have found that the basic mechanics of daily life seem to fill the day.

Of course, there are plenty of people in this world that live the way I do and get much more accomplished than I ever will. I think I am an inefficient person because I never seem to have enough time in the day, yet I never end any day feeling like I have achieved superhero amounts of work. Still, whether I am actually doing anything useful or it is just taking me way too long to achieve next to nothing, I am more or less busy all day.

Now here is why this is by no means a bad thing — the more free time I have, the more time I am likely to waste. It is true — I am a thwarted lazy person. By this I mean that although in my heart I am deeply committed to a life of laziness, I just don’t have a lifestyle that allows me to be a practicing lazy slob. And it’s a good thing, too — if I had more time to myself, I would not write the great American novel. I would probably spend most of my newly freed time doing next to nothing.

I know this for a fact because I am in Istanbul for a few days at the moment, taking Baki to the dentist to get fillings (which fills me with parenting guilt) and emptying my storage space here in order to move my stuff to Antalya. Being in the city means that I have TV and I have spent hours (and I am not speaking figuratively, I actually mean hours) watching the Olympics.

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The boys, at the site of my undoing.

Okay, so there’s nothing wrong with watching sport, and the Olympic games are pretty heady stuff. There are all these amazing athletes, brimming over with potential, and you get to watch the culmination of all their hard work. You witness unbelievably emotional peaks and valleys and it all unfolds live on TV. What elevates me to the level of a world class slob, though, is that to truly enjoy this spectacle, I like to settle into a comfy chair with junk food and diet cola while I watch these dedicated athletes sweating it out. I munch munch through the events and munch faster while waiting for scores. In the back of my mind, some part of me with scruples is howling, but I ignore it and wonder if Baki ate all that popcorn that my mother in law got him.

Tomorrow, I load the moving truck and we go back home on Thursday. I think, in the interest of saving me from myself, that it won’t be a moment too soon.

smells and squeaks

The garden is full of scents! A honeysuckle that we planted in the outdoor kitchen is in full bloom, and the scent of it wafts about, making kitchen work positively dreamy.

The stinky and the sweet: fresh garlic and the honeysuckle by the kitchen.

As I worked on lunch, Ali wandered over with a flower from the white peony. It’s got a scent that reminds me of lily of the valley, but the scent of it in say, a talcum powder.

Can you spot the spider? Who could blame it for choosing such a sweet smelling home.

I was working on getting some lunch together — bubble and squeak and rarebits. My dad was a great fan of bubble and squeak — I think he liked to say it as much as he liked to eat it. There’s a nice article in the Guardian that breaks it down into a simple formula (equal parts potato and cabbage by volume not by weight, fry well). I thought it would make a good lunch for Kaya as well.

At the table, Kaya happily submitted to eating a few bites of the bubble and squeak that I had pureed for him, before making a lunge for my rarebit. I broke off a piece and gave it to him, and he tore away at it with his new front teeth. He demolished about half of it, eating it as fast as I could give it to him. It was a minimalist sort of rarebit (no beer, for instance), but as he liked it so much, I thought I would share the recipe. It’s a nice thing to make to go alongside a soup or a vegetable dish.

Bare bones rarebit:
1 1/4 c. milk
1 bay leaf
pepper
2 T butter
2T flour
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 t mustard
Worcestershire sauce
2 slices bread (you may have enough sauce for more than two, depending on the size of the bread)

Put the bay leaf in the milk with a few grinds of pepper and heat to boiling then shut off and let them get to know one another. In the mean time, melt the butter in another pot and add the flour to form a roux. Let it cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the milk in three installments, stirring well to keep things from getting lumpy. Cook the resulting sauce for another two minutes before removing from the heat. Add the cheese and stir vigorously to melt it. Then stir in your mustard and add a bit of Worcestershire sauce as well if you like.
Heat the broiler and toast the tops of your bread under it before spreading a thick layer of cheesy sauce on them. Set them under the broiler, but not too close, and let the sauce get hot and brown.
Keep out of reach of babies, or else make a helping for any babies present.

Hands off my rarebit!

And while I am on the topic of food that Kaya loves, I have to also make special mention of a wonderful recipe I found at one of my favorite blogs, From the Bartolini Kitchens. It’s for polpettine (diminutive meatballs), a new staple in my kitchen. We had them the other night, and Kaya was jumping up and down in his seat for more (even Baki, the world’s pickiest eater, tucked in happily). What’s so interesting to me about this is that the blog is dedicated to sharing family recipes, many of them tied to wonderful memories and stories. Wouldn’t it be nice if one day Kaya learned to make polpettine so that he could bring back his memories of eating them under the garlic braids in the garden kitchen.

Happy birthday Kaya!

Kaya turned one today, and we had a little party. His friend Manolya came over, and the two babies played together while Baki and Manolya’s elder sister ran riot.

I’m still not giving Kaya sugar, so I made him some carob brownies, from Cynthia Lair’s cookbook, Feeding the Whole Family. I actually really like carob, but I think that they main thing about it is that you can’t think of it in relation to chocolate. It’s just a different thing.
Since the adults were not going to be as happy to eat the carob brownies, (I mean, let’s face it — children’s birthday parties, even with a limited guest list, require something more decadent to make them worth it) I made some other treats. Chocolate was in order, so I tried Smitten Kitchen’s world peace cookies . Intrigued by Yummy Chunklet’s recent postabout a new way to make shortbread, I decided to give it a try. It is a lot of fun — you freeze the dough and grate it into the pan so that the shortbread is all pillowy. And Jell-O (except it’s vegetarian, because when I think about gelatine, I get grossed out) because you need colorful desserts for a birthday party. Kaya and Manolya were pretty colorful, come to think of it, once they got their hands on the strawberries.

Can you spot the carob?

I must be getting old because birthdays have started to make me morose. It’s just too much time passing too quickly. I guess I should just take the hint and enjoy it all while I can, before the boys move out and forget to call or write. Maybe they’ll have blogs…