Makarna (n.: Pasta) A short adventure into my history

I did it!  Making pasta from scratch was on my 30 in 30 list in part because I wanted to add fun cooking-related things to the list and in part because, as a (non-Jersey Shore) Italian American kid I thought it would be good if I were able to make a pot of pasta on my own.  What I did not expect was for it to turn into a trip down memory lane of thoughts of my grandmother.

cook book, computer, wine

Ready to attempt pasta… armed with my honeymoon cookbook, williamssonoma website, and a bottle of wine. You know, just in case.

Both of my parents come from mostly Italian roots, but my mother’s mother is the one I remember having fresh made pasta and sweets ready for us when we were kids.  I should mention that while they both came from tight-knit Catholic families — the kind that stay in the same houses for generations, the kind that have 11 children (yes. true story.) — when I was a little kid my parents moved us across the country.  At the time it was tough, more for my parents than us, but over time I can say it was the best thing for us.  It taught my sister and I to be independent and to know that no matter how far we were physically from our families they were always with us.  Which having lived an ocean away for over three and a half years now has been a wonderful lesson to have learned.

Edith in the kitchen.

Edith in the kitchen.

So growing up, my parents shipped my sister and I back to the northeast to visit our extended families for a few weeks each summer until we were old enough to be ‘too cool’ for that.  The great thing about it was that since we weren’t around all the time like our other cousins, my grandmother would always indulge us and pull out all the stops.  We could have pasta every night and even her world famous nut roll (and it wasn’t even Christmas!) if we asked lovingly and would offer up hugs and kisses.


Making pasta is tougher than I thought… though super delicious!

My grandmother was the first generation of Americans in her family (which is to say she was born in the US, but her parents were not) and she grew up with the ways of the old country.  She even grew up speaking Italian at home and only learning English in school.  Edith, the Americanized form of the popular Italian name ‘Aida’, was an amazing chef.  She somehow managed to feed eleven kids on virtually nothing — though they will all admit that those days the food wasn’t as good — and I deeply regret never learning her recipes from her before she passed away.

Close up of ravioli

Close ups of food make me hungry. Maybe I should pull out some leftovers?

It came as quite a surprise to me that somehow in the middle of attempting to roll out pasta dough into perfect paper-thin sheets — a much more difficult feat than you’d think when you see some of those old ladies do it! — I begin to think of my grandmother.  It isn’t that I don’t think of her often this time of year, I think we all think of those who aren’t here to celebrate the holidays with us this time of year, it was just a surprise at how easily her memory came to me during such a simple act.  I suppose to say I was thinking of her isn’t quite accurate either. I’d say I was channeling her or felt connected to her across time and space as though she were in my kitchen with me.

A young Edith.  Before marriage, kids, and all of us grandkids...

A young Edith. Before marriage, kids, and all of us grandkids. What a beautiful woman!

I’m not saying the ghost of my long-dead grandmother is haunting my rolling pin, but I believe that we’re all connected in ways we don’t fully understand (string theory anyone? yep, the yogi in me is showing!) and that maybe through my attempt to reconnect with my Italian heritage I connected with my grandma on a level I hadn’t before.  And more than that, I almost felt as though I were connecting with generations of women who had spent hours rolling out dough just as I was doing.  It was such a wonderful, calming feeling that I may even be willing to do it again.  But not anytime in the very near future, because my recipe made enough pumpkin raviolis to stash some in the freezer for a rainy day – just like Gram did!

empty plate pumpkin ravioli

Best evidence that it was not only edible, but delicious? An empty serving plate!


“You poopy face butt head!!!” or My 30 days without swearing

Funny Reminders Ecard: I do not spew profanities. I enunciate them clearly, like a fucking lady.
That’s right folks.  I fucking did it.  Yes, that f-bomb was totally gratuitous swearing right there but you know what?  I can do things like that now.  Because I made it 30 days without swearing.  And the best part is that I don’t really feel the need to add the extra potty words now which was the whole point of the exercise.  Right?  It wasn’t just to torture me… right?

If you remember correctly, I started trying this whole 30 days straight about three months ago.  I had to restart quite a few times which is why it’s taken SO long to make it 30 days straight.  The biggest culprits for the restarts?  Drivers.  Either as a passenger or as a pedestrian, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve let a swear word out while dealing with the drivers here in Ankara.  I’ve heard it said (by Turk and foreigner alike) that Turks are some of the warmest and kindest people… until they get behind the wheel of a car.  And it’s true!  The utter selfishness and lack of awareness of the average driver here is mind-blowing (and f-bomb inducing).

My other hang up was that we added extra words to the swear words list that I was to avoid using.  Specifically, the use of “douche” or “douche bag” as a profanity.  Apparently it was one of my go-to’s because it caused my restart twice.

I did however begin to use some creative replacements like ‘cupcake’ as a condescending term and reverted back to the first grade by using phrases like ‘poopy face’.  Overall I found that by keeping myself from using swear words, I was also able to somehow keep myself calmer.  Maybe because I knew that getting worked up would cause the swearing or maybe because in lieu of a swear word I’d breathe deeply and try to calm myself.  Either way, I’m pretty happy that I did it.  And I’m happy I don’t have to start over every time I utter a swear word now!

Fotoğraf çekmek (v.: to take a photo) Or how having photos taken is like being in a yoga class

So remember how I was going to make a real go of teaching yoga… Like, as in for a living? Obviously that meant I would need to be serious and advertise my classes and go to local gyms or studios and offer my services as a teacher. Well, I’ve been a little bit of a slacker on this one. Okay, a lot of a slacker. I’ve been blaming the fact that I need to get together a good yoga-y CV (that’s the European/rest of the world way of saying resume) with my philosophy and teaching style all plotted out as well as my teachers and all that fun stuff. You’d be surprised how difficult it is for a once professional to write a yoga style CV. Or maybe you wouldn’t be, but it’s very different than a normal resume.  At least for the types of jobs I used to be interested in applying for.

I eventually finished writing my CV and getting references together, but then I realized I need to have a photo of myself for it. Ugh. I hate finding photos of myself. And I really hate when yoga teachers chose photos where they are all twisty and bended into an awkward pose (yes, professionally speaking we call those ‘asana’). Should teachers be able to show students how to do these crazy poses? Yes, of course. But do I need to see you squished into a ball as your headshot on the CV? Probably not. Thus not having a good, professional quality photo of me not in a wedding dress or from my senior year of high school has been my excuse to not get out and advertise my self.

But then a great friend of mine, A, who is a professional photographer offered her services to take “a few” photos for me. In 45 minutes she took 245 pictures. I have only seen a few previews from the camera display, but oh my goodness do I love A. She has mad skillz (oh yeah, with a z). I will say however posing for the photo shoot was such a funny reminder of what my students probably think during my yoga classes — and I’m only talking about the normal, headshot photos.  Not the couple of yoga pose poses.  There were lots of reminders that the pose maybe feels awkward, but that it’s okay.  Some to keep my shoulders back, my belly in, and my tail bone tucked.  And my favorites were when A would try to instruct me how to slightly change the pose by moving an arm or leg just a bit and I’d either not understand which one she meant (“no, your other left…”) or I’d totally change the whole thing in a weird way she didn’t mean for me to do.  All and all if she had reminded me to keep breathing it could have been a yoga class.  A, you are on your way to being a photographer and yoga teacher.  It could be a whole new genre of yoga… Oh, wait, I think they call it modeling.  Never mind.

The funny part that makes this all very Turkey-related is how the photo shoot went.  We did it right outside A’s building (Baby L was sleeping soundly upstairs with the housekeeper, but we didn’t want to go far just in case) and were watched throughout the process by curious passers by.  Some commented on the strange attire choice I had made (yoga clothes and no shoes — heaven forbid!) and others wanted their photo taken.  One kind older man stood and argued with A for four solid minutes about the angles from which she should be taking my photos (he insisted she look up at me not down… which A later explained would cause a serious double chin — no thank you!).  It’s probably helpful for the humor of this story to know that A doesn’t speak Turkish.  He just kept insisting she understand.  Which was hilarious and pretty typical.  Eventually I thanked him for his sage advice and told him we’d do those photos next.  Luckily he didn’t stick around to monitor our progress.  The best was the reaction of the little ladies in the ground floor apartment outside of who’s kitchen window we were shooting the photos.  They kept asking about my level of certainty for not wearing shoes.  Mind you, it was a bit chilly and my feet did get a bit numb, but you don’t wear shoes in yoga photos!  Rest assured, little ladies, it’s been over 48 hours and I have neither noticed a brain inflammation nor missing ovaries as a result of being barefoot outside, but thank you for your concern.  Actually, once I explained it was for yoga they were pretty reasonable and just kept insisting we take tea to warm us up.  Which is really kind of sweet since they only know A in passing and had never met me.

Needless to say I’m super excited about the photos!

If you’re in the Ankara area and looking for a GREAT photographer, you should check out my friend, A.  Here’s her blog and website.

Koşmak (v.: to run); Lessons learned by the first time race-runner

First, I want to say thank you thank you THANK YOU to everyone who supported me and put up with my craziness and/or rambling on and on about my running and the race during the lead up to it.  Also, I’ll add a quick “I’m sorry…” for my post-race raving and ranting and my general fixation on the subject.  I’ll do my best to keep it in check, but if I blather for too long you should feel free to tell me to shut up.

Sleepy pup

I did miss the best running buddy ever…

A lot of friends and experienced runners told me some of the things to look out for: the zig zagging around slower runners, the extra adrenaline that might cause me to start too quick and burn out early, the need to eat right and be hydrated.  They were all right though the two glasses of wine the night before were worth it.  Despite the advice and pre-planning I didn’t really know what to expect for my first race.  The running itself I knew and was prepared for; however, the should-have-been-expected pre-race chaos was not.

My first time in Turkey years and years ago I quickly learned a phrase all my Turkish friends used with frightening frequency, “burası Türkiye“.  Literally it means “this is Turkey”, but it implies so much more.

“Don’t expect things to be what you’re used to — this is Turkey.”

“Of course we can drive the wrong way up a one way street — this is Turkey.”

“Why would you even try to apply logic to this problem set? — this is Turkey.”

“Sit. Enjoy the tea and the view.  You can only get it here — this is Turkey.”

Essentially, it means things in Turkey are done differently sometimes better, sometimes worse but that you, yabancı (foreigner), must learn to just accept the way things are because you can’t change them.  After all, burası Türkiye.

This tangent is to explain how I was able to maintain my calm and still mentally prepare for the feat ahead of me while most of the non-Turks* lost their minds at the quasi-craziness.  (It should be noted that the Italians and Spaniards I saw seemed right at home… maybe it really is a whole Mediterranean thing.)  There was some chaos in Taksim to get on the buses to get to the Asian side where the race was to begin, but in all fairness to the organizers there is always an element of chaos in Taksim Square.  Probably less so on a normal Sunday morning at 7am, but still.  After loading on the buses (eventually) and getting to Asia (in record time thanks to closed roads) we did have to kill about an hour before the race began in the impressively chilly morning weather.  Not to be blamed on the organizers of course.

No I am no record setter, but I do know that slow people who plan to walk off the start line shouldn’t be the first ones to line up at the line… there were definitely people who didn’t realize that of course.  When added to the impressive number of people who decided to stop dead in their tracks in the middle of the road to take photos (move to the side, people!!!) I did a lot more darting around than I expected and definitely felt the odd lateral moves by the end of the race.  Who thought I’d dart more during a race when we were all (theoretically) running in the same direction than while weaving around people on the sidewalks in Ankara?!

running gear

Laid out and ready for the post race run. Good news: I can justify the money I spent on my gear. Bad news: I can keep justifying it. Darn you, Lululemon!

All and all, I’m super proud of myself.  Not only did I finish the race (goal #1), I managed to run 8.4km (by the way, race officials, it’d be nice to mention this extra .4km to people before we run it) in 1:00:22.  Obviously not a world record, but an awesome starting point for me.  Yep, you read that right.  A starting point.  As in I might consider doing this craziness again.  Who’d’a thought that six months ago?  Definitely not me.

Run an 8km? Check. From Asia to Europe? Check.

So I did it.  I can scratch it off the old 30 in 30 list.  On Sunday I ran in the Istanbul Eurasian marathon (the 8 km portion).  I’ll write all about this awesome accomplishment later, but I’m exhausted (from hiking all over Istanbul for two days more than from running) so for now you get photos.


This blurry photo was meant to show the utter mess that was made of Taksim square while the marathon buses were lining up to shuttle us to the Asian side. Time from Taksim to Asia: 19:06. AKA the fastest ever commute across the bridge.

Shuttle bus

Shuttle buses to bring us to the start line.

running shoes

My awesomely bright running shoes (and proof of chip/number).

Pre-Race smile

Pre-Race was all smiles and excitement. And cold. Oh so very cold!

Start line

Right after the start line leaving Asia.


The local entrepreneurs came out in full force. There were water sales kids all along the route and these two simitcis ran onto the bridge with us!


Mid-Bridge or halfway between Asia and Europe (though only about a 10th of the way into the race).

Entering Europe

At the other end of the bridge, as I entered Europe. The police along the route were funny — some were the usual bored to be there but some were great and clapping and cheering us on. These were the former.

Into Beşiktaş

Running down the hill into Beşiktaş. The Bosphorus is directly ahead. The banners hanging into the streets (the non-Ataturk ones) were to wish the Beşiktaş runners good luck. I figure since I’m a fan of the Beşiktaş soccer team I count.


Running past Dolmabahçe which was at about the 6.5km mark.

I know.  No finish line pictures… at that point I was so tired that I didn’t even think about it.  Also, after waiting in “line” (I use quotes to denote that it was less of a line and more of a crowd smooshing into a tent) for my certificate, I was ready to shower and get some serious caffeine.  More later to include my lessons learned.











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