Saturday, 30 December 2017

Happy New Year

A New Year's resolution for all of all living in Turkey. 

Expect the Unexpected

Here's to what 2018 brings us. 

Friday, 29 December 2017

Where does Santa spend the New Year?

After a busy 24 hours whizzing around the world on the back of a sleigh coping with grumpy reindeer, overcrowded flight paths and blocked up chimneys, Santa needs a break.  Rather than head back to the North Pole, this year he was spotted on Wednesday sipping a complimentary mulled wine at The Mayor's Christmas Drink's Party for Bodrum's international residents.  Despite keeping a low profile, the local press caught sight of him and he graciously gave a short interview. General confusion reigned and the TV footage hasn't to my knowledge been aired, so I think Mr Claus has managed to keep his winter holiday destination a secret known only to a select few (to which you are now admitted - don't tell any one else).

Bodrum Mayor, Mehmet Kocadon, welcoming guests to his Christmas cocktail party.

Santa enjoying a well earned glass of wine with Ayşe and Mine.

I was very chuffed to hear that SC sometimes reads this blog so he might add a few comments himself, although he may write under the alias of 'John' to preserve a degree of anonymity. 

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

The Gift of Stillness

The best gift we can give to ourselves is inner peace. It's not always easy to find especially when others seem to conspire to make our lives difficult.  I have spent the past six months trying to follow the rule that I can not affect what happens to me or what others do but I can control how I react to it. It is a very effective method for keeping all those big and little niggles of life under control. It takes a bit of practice but I can thoroughly recommend it.

My daughter and I spent 25th December in Gümüşlük.  It was one of those lovely December days when the sun warms the air enough to feel comfortable but the chill is still licking your ankles to remind you it's winter.  The sun rays were picking up ripples in the bay turning the sea silver, and bouncing off glasses and cutlery in the restaurants making everything into a shimmering Christmas decoration.  We both sat and watched the sea feeling peacefulness envelope. To quote Lou Reed it was 'Just a Perfect Day.' 

Dog at peace

The locals were friendly and  up for a selfie. 

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Bodrum turns orange

While those of you in the Christian world are wondering if you have enough Brussels sprouts or if Auntie Jean will notice that you have bought her a scarf for the 6th Christmas in a row, in Bodrum we are celebrating the mandarin orange.  And today was very orange. The municipality distributed orange beanie hats and scarves and swathed a lot of orange chiffon around. 

What has a camel got to do with small citrus fruit? Who cares - two very photogenic camels led the mandarin procession - followed by a brass band and dancing children - from the marina to the town square where stalls representing various charities and businesses were set up selling mandarin inspired goods (although some weren't anything to do with citrus but again, who cares)

These high school students were raising money to build a park specifically for disabled children. 

I caught up briefly with two famous bloggers and TV cooks, Oya Emerk and Sibel Yalçin who were off to take part in a citrus breakfast and then various cookery demonstrations. 

The weekly handicrafts stalls got their share of chiffon and orange hats and a few extra customers for their stalls ....

...and the children danced beautifully.

No this giant mandarin wasn't erected specially for the week-end festival. It's a permanent fixture. 

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Nature Hater.

“The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.”

Mark Twain

My distant neighbours enjoying a peaceful moment in my forest garden.
The locals understand, unfortunately too many people are coming in with city ideas. 

My husband frequently used to say that the more people he met, the more he valued his dog's company.  I am also coming around to the same point of view.  I couldn't write this post on Sunday because I couldn't see for the feathers I was spitting. 

I live in a forest. We bought a piece of land in 1991, full of pine tress, olive trees, wild bulbs and sakiz bushes (Pistacia lentiscus). Apart from the courtyard and beds around the house terraces, it is totally uncultivated and wild. Each year the emergence of the stately asphodels - the everlasting flower said to grow in the Elysian Fields, red hot and cool pastel anemones, intricate and shy orchids and blowsy poppies is a joy to watch.  I went back to check the house a couple of weeks ago and a lot of bulbs had been dug up and left on the ground. I initially thought the wild boar had been super active but then my nearest neighbour, who, about 3 years ago, built a house near mine, on the other side of the lane, came up to encourage me to admire his work.  He had begun to "tidy" my garden because it looked like a forest.  I went over for a coffee and politely explained that yes it did look like a forest because it was a forest and had been for the 25 years I'd lived here and that was how we, and now I liked it.  He told me he couldn't understand why I wanted my garden to look like this and that it would be much better if a tractor came in and ploughed up the land, and that two pine trees were overshadowing two olive trees and that wasn't good and it upset him to look at them!!!! so could he at least take those two branches off.  I reluctantly said yes to the two branches but that he was not to do anything else.  He wife was also there and she also heard me say several times that I liked MY garden how it was and he wasn't to do any more 'tidying'.   

So when I went back on Sunday to see that all the sakiz bushes in front of my terrace had been cut down and more asphodel bulbs dug up, you can imagine my feelings.  Luckily I was so angry that I forgot the Turkish for at lot of the expletives I remembered and voiced on the way home.  
When my husband was alive the neighbour wouldn't have dared cross the gate. Is this what it is to be from now on? 

Monday, 18 December 2017

Countdown to Christmas

 The decorations have been up for over a week, a few presents are waiting to be wrapped and I have finally made a Christmas pudding. I missed stir-up Sunday by a long stretch but the pudding production hit a snag earlier this month. I got all the ingredients together, sacrificed some very good brandy to soak the dried fruit and had everything in a large glass bowl for the final stir when a moment's distraction had the bowl spinning in mid air then shattering into a thousand pieces on the kitchen floor.  It took me a while to get over the disappointment enough to be able to start again from scratch.

Christmas/Noel/New Year fairs are in full swing - I'm limiting myself to one a week and will pick up a few tasty goodies at the Gümbet Christmas sale on Saturday. It seems silly to make my own mince pies when there are so many delicious homemade ones on offer now. I have avoided shopping malls this year and can happily report that I haven't heard one Christmas song - I'm beginning to crave some Slade and Wizard to get me into the Xmas mood - but the search for a turkey and cranberries will begin mid week and then it will really begin to feel Christmassy.

Bodrum Spor had an early Christmas present this week. After a poor showing in their first season in the second league, they finally managed to grab 3 points from an away win which will hopefully give them confidence to avoid relegation back to the third league when the season starts in the new year.  I'm not a football fan but good luck to them. 

Friday, 15 December 2017

Waste not - Want not

To celebrate Mother Earth Day and Local Food Week, there was free grub on offer in Bodrum market today.  Under a banner proclaiming 'Herşey Dahil İsraf Hariç'  which I can roughly translate as 'Everything Included Except Waste' - soup, bread and mandarins were handed out to an expectant crowd. Observing the spirit of the day - the soup was 'çercöp' which is made with whatever vegetable leftovers you have on the day, usually the stalks of celery and leek that might otherwise get thrown away, and the bread was 'peksimet' - which I think we would call rusks or the sort of hard tack, dried bread that sailors or travellers would take on a long journey.  

As we are entering a time of ridiculous over consumption, this was a good reminder to buy local food, avoid imported goods and use everything up.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Bodrum Party Pooper

My daily walk takes me in front of what is left of the Halikarnas Disco.  There was a lot public grief when the owner announced that it would not be opening this year (the landowners have long been trying to get their building back) but there were no tears from me.  I can't count the number of nights, wide awake at 3 am, I imagined myself at the controls of a massive wrecking ball, knocking the source of the unbearable din to the ground.  So the above picture is the culmination of a 3 decade old fantasy.  It wasn't just that the music was loud and went on until the early hours of the morning when I had to get up early for work, it was the incessant bass turned up so loud that it penetrated walls and worked its way into your very cells - my diaphragm jumped to the cords chosen by the DJ, not my own lungs.   I should really thank this disco - it was a major factor in us deciding to move out into the countryside in 1991 - no longer being able to put up with the sleep disruption.

1983 - an after-work drink in the quiet Halikarnas days. I know it is after work because I am in my Yachtours gear. 

I've just looked up the Halikarnas Disco's Trip Adviser reviews for the past few years and they are pretty evenly split between, to paraphrase, 'absolutely amazing experience' and 'bloody awful rip off. ' Before it 'blinged out' and started looking like an overdecorated wedding cake, it was a pleasant venue; a relaxing place to have a drink looking out over the castle and a venue for fashion shows - I even played ping pong there (how hip is that - I really knew how to have a good time).  In 2007, on a holiday from England, my then 15 year old daughter insisted on a visit to the disco and - because we all do daft things on holiday - we paid a large sum of money for entry and a warm beer. She never wanted to go back again.

Friday, 8 December 2017

December Morning in Bodrum

The North Wind has been blowing through Bodrum whisking away all the southerly haze; bringing us cold crisp mornings, an excuse to pull on woolly gloves and hats and the chance to walk on the sunny side of the street after seven months of lurking in the shade.  The sunlight is however much brighter than that of an August day and easily blinds me if I forget my sunglasses.  My morning walk check list is therefore: 
Coat, hat, dog lead, poop bags, purse with ID card, door keys, very dark glasses and stick. 
I am reasonably ably bodied and don't need a walking stick but there are quite a few new stray dogs on the streets that Jake hasn't met before and he has twice felt teeth nipping him on his bottom.  The stick is a good deterrent when pointed forcefully at the potential aggressor's face. 
The stick is what I think is now called a 'trekking pole' and is red and silver - not white. I often meet people on my walks, nearly always familiar faces but this lady was a stranger.  We fell into conversation on the harbour front and it was a good five minutes before her combined actions and words made me realise that she was under the impression that I was blind.  Now if I was a 100% true blood Turk, I would have just said "You think I'm blind don't you. I'm not"  But I came over all British and tried to think of a way of showing her I could see without having to say anything that might embarrass her.  
So if you saw me doing a rather inelegant hop and jump over the high curb stones and a wide swerve around a bench - you now know why. 

I wasn't the only one with perception confusion yesterday. The dog that has to be goaded into the water on the hottest day of the year decided to go paddling on one of the coldest.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

November in a rush

I have a list on my desk headed "Posts for November" - I could rip it up and pretend it never existed or I could just race through the subjects and call it a 'November Review'.
The beautiful picture above was taken on a wonderfully tranquil November morning. Our photography group had had to abandon several visits to Tuzla/Boğazici at the beginning of the year due to bad weather, but this day was perfect and the flamingos and cormorants  posed for snaps too.

Bodrum staged a far ranging three day motor rally in mid-November which I managed to miss completely, so no pictures I'm afraid.  Later in the month there was 'Bodrun'.  A two day event with races in all distances from 5km to 100km.  I did at least catch the very end as the long distance runners staggered back.

These lovely crocus flowers made their annual November appearance proving that we really do have a 'last spring' rather than Autumn.  The weather has been kind too. I have only fired up the wood stove 3 times and that was more for effect than necessity.

I went to two historical/archaeological talks. The first was a lecture on the two Artemisias and Ada; super powerful female rulers in Halicarnassus. School children from Gümüşlük acted out scenes from Artemis 1 and 11's greatest victories. All history should be taught like this - they will never get the two rulers mixed up ( as I sometimes do) .  The second talk was on the excavations at Gebekli Tepe which have changed everything I learnt about pre-history at university.  I went with great expectation to the  English talk but was very disappointed.  A mere 18 minutes of lack-lustre reading from a script, I wish I'd gone to the talk in Turkish which lasted over twice as long but was packed solid.

It has been a bumper year for olives. Mine are still on the trees so I have missed the chance to make high quality oil as we have had a couple of downpours.  Any olives picked now will produce greater quantities of oil but at a higher acidity.  Usually I have plenty of offers from neighbours to pick my olives but everyone has so many of their own this year, no one wants mine. My nearest neighbour tells me I have 24 olive trees and I thought it odd that in 25 years I have never counted but he has.   Any one want any olives?

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Pumpkin Flop

The promised pumpkin cake post didn't appear yesterday because the recipe was a fiasco. I tried to be clever and make the cake with no white sugar using apple syrup instead, plus I substituted  olive oil for butter. Despite draining the pumpkin puree in a sieve for over an hour, which produced a large cup of juice, my puree was still too wet, so my finished product resembled a bread pudding rather than a cake.  Luckily I like bread pudding, even pumpkin flavoured ones and I had a slice toasted for breakfast this morning - which is a first. 
Jake was very happy with his pumpkin enriched mince and rice and he has cleaned his plate at both breakfast and supper, which is quite a rare occurrence with this fussy dog. 

I still had a cup of puree left over so I allowed it to drain overnight in the fridge and resorted to the trusted cake ingredients to produce a light and tasty pumpkin cake the next day. 

Pumpkin Cake Mark 2

2 medium eggs 
Weigh the eggs and measure out the same amount of sugar (white, brown or mixed), self raising flour and butter, 
1 tsp cinnamon, half tsp allspice and half a nutmeg - grated
Half a cup of well drained pumpkin puree
Handful of dried fruit - anything you have in your cupboard, small pieces

Heat the oven to 190 C (180 fan) 

Cream the sugar and butter, add two beaten eggs and pumpkin then gently stir in the flour, fruit  and spices. 
Grease a 7 inch cake tin and line with baking parchment, I never bother to line it if the cake tin has a removable base. 
Cook for about 40 minutes and check  that a knife in the centre comes out clean, if not bake for 5 minute intervals until it does. 

I iced mine with half a tub of Phily type cream cheese mixed with two tablespoons of icing sugar but next time I will leave it plain. 

Sunday, 26 November 2017

A little bit obsessed.

Nearly finished 

I'm sorry I have been neglecting my blog these past two months. I'm not working, so have plenty of time to devote to research and writing but I have discovered a new love and, rather than sit in my comfortable leather office chair in front of the computer, I am drawn upstairs to a previously unloved and ignored third bedroom where I have set up a picnic table and garden chair.  I can happily spend hours sitting here despite the lack of home comforts. I have discovered the joys of dabbling in water colours and don't really want to do anything else.   Vegetables are the obsession at the moment and I bought a large pumpkin in the market last week just so I could paint it.  That achieved I had to do something with it. In the past I would have made Teo's favourite Kabak Tatlısı, sweet baked pumpkin, which I like but one spoonful is enough for me. I was also feeling lazy so didn't want to peel and chop this hard and knobbly specimen. So I just cut it in half, turned it flesh down and baked it for 40 minutes at 200 degrees C.

Turn upside down to cook,  quite a lot of liquid is produced.

Allowing a little time to cool down, it was easy to scoop out the seeds and then spoon out the rest of the now pureed flesh. A quarter went into my vegetable soup, a quarter into Jake's brown rice and mince that I cook up every week (According to Mr. Google it is good for dogs with delicate stomachs) and half into a sieve to drain away the excess moisture.  A pumpkin cake is in the oven as I write.  If it works I will post the recipe tomorrow.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

THE Cookery Book to have on your shelf

As most of you know I make my living working as a professional cook. I no longer work full time but I still manage to get paid occasionally to provide good food.  There is a misconception that 'good' cooks don't need cookery books and I admit to only using two or three recipes in any cookery book I buy. But one book that is just about to be published will be in both my kitchens and on my bedside table (yes I've ordered 3 to start with) and will be well thumbed, slightly oily and no doubt splashed with tomato and pomegranate juice in no time; the sign of the best recipe collections.  I discovered Özlem Warren through her blog, Özlem's Turkish Table and have been lucky enough to meet her and her family on her trips to Bodrum. I have used her recipes extensively and they have got me out of several professional holes when I just couldn't come up with a menu idea.  If you are going to buy one cookery book in the next 12 months, please buy this one. If you think you can't cook - definitely buy it - you can prove yourself wrong.  Healthy, tasty, honest food with zingy flavours is all any of us want to cook and if it looks spectacular too, we can all take a bow.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Yoga in Bodrum

I know I go on and on about how great it is to live in Bodrum and it is surprising how few folk take me to task over it, but it really is pretty amazing.  There are not many places in the Northern hemisphere where you can do yoga outside in the first two weeks of November at 8:30 in the morning. I wish this was a photo of me on my yoga mat and I really should be quite good at it by now after the 30 years or so of downward dogs and warrior poses that I've creaked my ever increasingly unbending body into, but I'm not.  I put it down to being a typical English pear shape that means my bottom-heavy physique resists any pose that suggests my lower half should be higher than my shoulders.  But I still love yoga and always feel more energised and supple when I attend regular sessions. 

The pictures are of Menekşe Karaman whose class I am attending on Monday and Thursday mornings.  The cool drizzle forced us inside to the Karia Prenses hotel last week but the minute the sun shines again, we will be spreading our yoga mats amongst the almost tropical vegetation in the hotel garden.

If you would like to join us please contact me or on the BacktoBodrum Facebook page
Menekşe also teaches in Gümüşluk  and I'm happy to forward her contact details by email.

I'll leave you with a photo of my yoga mat and blocks. 

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Freewriting for Travel writers

Before she left for Cambodia, Jay Artale, the eponymous author of Roving JayThe Bodrum Peninsula Travel Guide and The Gümüşlük Travel Guide, popped in for coffee and cake and presented this to the budding travel writer in our house.  Now it is difficult enough to get a dog to write a travel blog, despite his recent trans-continental adventures, so trying to get him to concentrate on the written word is only possible with the aid of a doggie treat hidden in the spine, and thus a very short-lived endeavour.  I was quick to rescue the book from slobber and have read it myself cover to cover.  It's a useful tool for those of us who get sluggish with our posts and articles and need a nudge to help us back on to the regular writing track. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who is keen to try travel writing but nervous about actually starting. The prompts will get your pencil racing across the page.   If you would like a wider audience for your efforts , I am happy to publish any posts relating to Turkey, Greece, Cookery or Canines on BacktoBodrum. Jake insisted the last category be inserted.

Available in paperback and digital from Amazon. 

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Ladies'Lunch 2017

Fantastic weather, a beautiful setting, delicious food and a vineyard - What could go wrong? Absolutely nothing. This year's Ladies' Lunch was a triumph for first time organisers Jemma Reynolds and Sarah J Carter.  After a break in this long running end-of-season institution, The Ladies' Lunch was resurrected in the beautiful setting of The Karnas Winery at Selia Farm in Çömlekçi.

Aslı Mutlu of Cooking Classes Bodrum produced the food and Selva İşmen the wine: a partnership that is going from strength to strength providing something a bit out of the ordinary in the Bodrum area.  This would be a wonderful setting for a wedding or big anniversary party and anyone who has qualms about access shouldn't worry. We travelled by minibus which took just 30 minutes from central Bodrum.

I didn't count but about 35 of us reconnected with old friends or made new ones and some of us were lucky in the traditional ticket raffle.

I was very lucky as the first number out of the bag. 

These occasions are great for bringing people together. This is me with Sari who started reading this blog in her native Finland. 

Past Ladies' Lunches: 201220132014

Tuesday, 7 November 2017


A downpour last week coupled with warm temperatures this week has sent my Bodrum garden into overdrive. I'm sure I can actually see it growing. A banana leaf that I hadn't even noticed at the week-end, blocked my entrance this morning and unless I've grown 2 inches in the night, the pomegranate tree is heading south, complete with 2 brace of head-banging-into fruit . 

I have spent the afternoon pruning and have disposed of all the surplus except the rosemary leftovers.  I can't bare to throw away such a useful herb. It will take me some time but I am determined to use it all up.

 Starting with my cup of Earl Grey 

and as a stirrer in my G & T. 

 A few facts about this wonderful herb. 

Rosemary – Biberiye in Turkish 

1. Rosmarinic acid is a natural polyphenolic antioxidant and has been found to have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidant functions. Apart from the Rosemary, other popular herbs like Sage, Mint, Oregano and Thyme also contain appreciable levels of rosmarinic acid. (If uses when barbecuing meat - these herb counteract the carcinogenic affects of cooking meat over a grill)

2. Rosemary oil distilled from the flowers is known to be astringent and a stimulant.

3. Its oil is used externally as an anti irritant to soothe painful ailments like gout and rheumatism.

4. Rosemary herb extractions, when applied to the  scalp,  can help prevent dandruff.

5. Rosemary tea is a natural remedy for nervous headache, colds, and depression.

6. At Northumbria University,  students were tested before and after sniffing rosemary.  Results show that those using rosemary improved both their speed and accuracy .

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Quince Cheese - Membrillo

It's a rare dull and rainy day in Bodrum - a stay at home and mess about in the kitchen sort of day. Before lunch I tipped 3 lamb shanks, onions and root veg into the slow cooker so there is a homely smell of stew wafting around - I thought the rain was preventing Jake crossing the threshold, but it may be the scent of braised lamb bones. After our morning walks I have been picking up windfalls from my neighbour's quince tree - it seems a shame that they are usually left to rot. Today was the day to do something with them. I usually peel, halve and de-core quinces and roast them with honey and lemon juice but these sad specimens were small and half rotten in parts and only salvageable in bits. So I decided to make Membrillo - the delicious set quince paste that is solid enough to cut into shapes and is best served with salty sheep's cheese. 

Lemon juice

I put my cored, peeled and chopped quince pieces in an saucepan and poured in just enough water to almost cover the fruit.  This is then put on a gentle boil until almost all the water is boiled away and the fruit is soft. You should have about 4 tablespoons or a centimetre of water left in the bottom of the pan. Most recipes tell you to boil the fruit in plenty of water then drain this away,  but all the pectin leeches from the fruit into the water and this last concentrated bit will make sure your paste sets firm. Tip the contents of the saucepan into a bowl and puree it with a stick blender (or push it through a sieve) - Wash the saucepan and using a cup, measure the quince puree back into the saucepan. Wash and dry the cup and then use it to put the same amount of sugar into the puree and add the juice of half a lemon for each two cups.  Stir this mixture to dissolve the sugar and keep on a low heat as it gently bubbles and thickens. Mine took 45 minutes to get to a thick, dark orange.  The mixture will need stirring every few minutes so don't leave it for long or it will stick to the bottom of the pot. I think you could safely put it in a slow cooker for a few hours but mine was full of stew. 

When your wooden spoon leaves a clean path behind it on the bottom of the saucepan, turn off the heat and turn your oven on to its lowest setting - mine is about 60 degrees C. Line a tin with lightly buttered baking parchment and pour in the paste.  Pop it into the oven until it sets firm. Mine took 1 hour. The aim is to dry it not cook it.

Delicious served with Izmir Tulum cheese. 

Cut into squares and wrapped in greaseproof paper, membrillo will last for months in the fridge. Next time (there are plenty more quinces to fall) I will pour it into a cupcake tray lined with paper cases and make individual small cheeses.  But that can wait until the next rainy day.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

October lamentations

These Ecco boots will have to last

A first world problem I know, but upsetting. My mother, friend Jane and I headed to Oasis, Bodrum's first shopping mall. I only go there to buy shoes and I buy in just one shop - Ecco. Jane comes all the way from Marmaris to shop there. You probably can't imagine our disappointment when we found it closed - fully grown women shouldn't be brought nearly to tears because a shop has shut down but as the only supplier of hardwearing, affordable, comfortable footwear for 100s of miles - this was a blow. 
Not the first this month - I rang the lady who looks after all my banking and insurance to check a payment. She answered as usual and efficiently fixed the problem and then dropped the bombshell - she has been transferred. She has looked after our finances since we moved back to Bodrum and helped me sort everything out when Teo died, I have relied on her heavily to keep the ship afloat. Change hurts. 
And finally the biggest lament; on October 1st, Bodrum Castle closed its doors to visitors, with no indication when they will open again. The plan is to put all the museum exhibits into one purpose-built hall in the centre of the castle. Apart from the worry of how all the heat and moisture-sensitive displays will be stored whilst work continues, Bodrum's already teetering tourism industry will take another hit when it least needs one.  

Scaffolding up around the castle