Monthly Archives: June 2012

…Crawling

Look Ma! New Trick!

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…Dehydration

Adventures in dehydration? No, I’m not referring to heat exhaustion or IV drips, though my last few posts may make you think I’m fascinated with such things, but to dehydrated foods, aka items you can easily have sent through the diplomatic mail or pouch and which make you the hippest homemaker on the block.

My first adventure in dehydration was not, to my youthful chagrin, with astronaut ice cream (too expensive for stingy younger me), but with dehydrated retried beans from the coop in C-ville. They came in cool flavors, even black bean and lime. I used them in all sorts of recipes, bean loafs, brownies, etc.

When my doctor advised trying a GF diet, I craved Mac n Cheese, but thought buying a box and tossing out the noodles was a bit extravagant, not that I didn’t do that a few times. And, it was then that I discovered Barry Farms, home of everything dehydrated, and then some.

They have dehydrated cheddar by the pound for use in Mac-n-cheese, soup, on popcorn, etc. They have some freeze dried fruits so you can rehydrate and make re-fresh smoothies, mix-ins for yogurt, pie filling…. Freeze dried veggie powder, which has become a baby food option for us (even powdered asparagus, or beet!), beans, potato…. Spices. You name it, they’ve dried it. And it’s cheap, and light to ship.

Currently, veggie powder is making up a large portion of Neko’s diet, along with frozen veggies cooked and blended in our Beaba. For a more portable option, we have NurturMe packages which are good for on the go, and have some flavors which BarryFarm doesn’t.

On the fruit front, there’s an even better option. If I’d known about it before, I’d have ordered something i’ve been drooling over on Costco.com, but which is probably too big for the DPO, a set of freeze dried berries in 1 gallon cans, perfect for pies.

One interesting thing about all these dehydrated things is that you can add interesting flavors to foods without weird textures. You’re all familiar with onion and garlic powder, but carrot powder is cool too!

Oh, goodness, I see that the freeze dried fruit company sells individual cans too, those would totally make it through the DPO or pouch. Yum… freeze-dried cherry pie.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

…Blue Daisies

I went to the fancy flower shop, and meant to buy one vase of flowers. They seemed rather expensive, but I’m more likely to forgo future shopping rather than bargain with a vendor, so I got them anyway. They filled 4 vases when I got home. Floribundas.


– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Dhaka

…Istanbul

OMG, Istanbul was great!! Oh wait, I wanted to give a different impression first. All you FS types reading this: Turkey was hot, and there was bad traffic in Istanbul, and… and… Turkish is a hard language. Er… I’m trying to come up with reasons for you all to avoid bidding on the very few posts available in Istanbul, but it’s hard. So, I’ll go for the personal appeal, please, please, please, don’t bid on it. I want to. 🙂 If you read the rest of this, you might want to bid on it, so please don’t. The OUR “Orient Express” family has already done an excellent job of detailing the merits of Istanbul, and I’m going to have a lot of work ahead of me discouraging the rest of you from bidding on it.

But, yes, Istanbul was great. Really.

The breakfast buffet at the Armada

We arrived in the evening and took the hotel’s rather stealthily luxurious van to the back streets of Sultanahmet, the old town district of Istanbul. The Hotel Armada was both tastefully elegant, and yet a bit hip. The building was decorated with late 1800’s sensibilities (both Old West and Colonial), but the staff wore tight black t’s and pants. The food at the breakfast buffet was divine, and divinely fresh. I wanted to pack up the whole spread and air freight it home. They had fresh honey comb, fresh OJ squeezing, 5-10 different kinds of jams/bread toppings, 8 kinds of cheese, three kinds of tomatoes, etc…. Wonderful. In the lobby, there was a living sculpture of Mississippi red-eared slider turtles in a fountain. The roof deck (where breakfast was) had views of both the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, and the Marmara. There were fresh flowers everywhere. The soaps were handmade. There were exotic birds in gilded cages. But… I have no idea what the rooms were like, because we actually rented an apartment around the corner, which was even cooler.

Our apartment was about 30 seconds from the front door of the Armada, but gave us the experience of living in Istanbul, like a local. Across from our front stoop, was a front stoop where real Istanbullus sat and watched the afternoon go by. A klatch of three busibody ladies sat in plastic chairs in front of the local “everything store.” At the same store, Mr. Adventure bought an ice cream one night, and had the wrong change, so the proprietor told him to come back the next day and pay him back. Our neighbor’s baby smiled at our baby. The street cats sidled up to us as we walked by. People waved and smiled. It was not your typical hotel experience.

Turtles in the Armada lobby

If you do rent the apartment we used (Studio 1, ground floor and basement), beware the ground floor shower. It’s er… scary. The sprayer keeps popping off the hook and there is no scald guard. However, there are two bathrooms!!! And the one downstairs has a perfectly fine shower, that doesn’t spray water all over the ceiling when it falls off the hook. That apartment had a queen bed on the main floor, along with a 24″ TV that had only 1 English channel ;( CNN, a kitchenette (stovetop, sink, toaster, coffee set up), and a eating table. The basement had 3 twin sized day beds, a tiny TV, arm chair, and TONS of pillows. There was also ample storage for all your luggage, as nearly every wall was lined with cupboards and closets. And, because this is a hotel apartment, you still get the fancy linens, the cozy bathrobes and in-room safe that you’d expect to find in a hotel. The apartment we chose was the mid-sized one, but there’s a smaller and a larger one, depending on your family. Ours was too big for us, we didn’t use the ground floor as much as we would have if Neko were older. We’d hoped to put her down there since her sleeping schedule is different than ours, but the crib they provided didn’t negotiate the stairs.

At the ceramics museum

The first night, all we did was sleep. We were recovering from the sunburn and sleeping outdoors adventures of the previous few days.

However, the next morning we were up and ready to explore! After the aforementioned glorious breakfast, we headed up the hill to Topkapi palace, hearing the sounds of a traveling musical troupe, and espying people on stilts was up ahead in a crowd, but never quite catching up with the show. We eschewed paying the entrance fee to the Palace, partly because of the enormous line, and continued on our merry way, spotting another museum on the way. The museum was advertising an all-museums pass for 70L, which allowed you to skip all the future ticket lines, and (as we found out when doing the math) saves you money as long as you visit both the Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi. It also includes admission to the Harem at Topkapi.

Enjoying lunch at the kebap and rug shop. Neko flirted with the very friendly waiter.

This museum that was down the hill was the archaeological museum, and included 3 separate museums, filled with the treasures of the empire. There were ancient relics from various far-flung sites that were once part of the Ottoman Empire, Eastern Roman Empire, Caliphate, etc. There were fancy things that were once used by those various rulers. The neatest items were in the main archaeolgical museum (which was under reconstruction, and partially closed), but the neatest building was the ceramics museum. Glorious mosaics, tiles, stained glass windows… I could live there. Wouldn’t be hard.

Hagia Sophia, with teeny tiny people. Ok, those are real full-sized people, the building’s just really huge.

We took some breaks to accommodate food for Neko and for ourselves, and then walked up the hill to the Hagia Sophia. It was everything I imagined, and cooler. Mr. A had previously seen it, but it was being restored at the time, and full of scaffolding. This time, both of us got to revel in its mosaics, expansiveness, and the weirdnesses of the whole thing. Much of the original splendor is lost due to lootings, idolatry controversies and it’s conversion to use as a mosque, but the architecture itself is more than suitably awe-inspiring. That might be hidden if there were more of the earlier decorations.

Classic mosaics at Hagia Sophia (Imperial types offering gifts to Christ)

After the Hagia Sophia, we gobbled yet another ice cream snack, and then took a chilly, damp trip down into an ancient cistern. It had been hidden for hundreds of years, but rediscovered when travelers heard tales of subbasement fishing holes. And, yes, the fish in there were strange and enormous. Neko liked the way the lights glowed against the damp walls, and possibly the novelty of walking around in the dark after just being outside in the middle of a bright day.

Cistern a la spookiness

We followed that up with a trip to the Blue Mosque, complete with the requisite modesty police that drape you in ugly swathes of velcroed fabric to hide various parts of your anatomy. Unlike some other mosques, the Blue Mosque was not concerned about my hair, but about my “shoulders,” which probably meant my decolletage, really. Either way, I had pre-scarfed my hair, so I had to re-scarf myself to cover my shoulders, but the initial look was much tidier than the second. The scarf, purchased nearby, was a nice match to the mosaic walls of the Blue Mosque, however, so that’s something. Neko, tidily packed up in the Ergo was free of the modesty restrictions. This was a pretty place, but not really anything different than many of the other mosques we’ve been to. I would have liked to get closer to the pretty tilework, but it was all up on the ceiling.

Scarfing it in the Blue Mosque

We ate dinner that night at McDonald’s, because yes, we’re deprived here in Dhaka. It was the first McDonald’s we’d had abroad that was so dramatically different than USA McDonald’s. The burger was a Kofta burger, even though it was labelled as a Big Mac, and the chicken nuggets were more like a panko breading than the normal smooth coating. The fries were perfect.

“Magic” corn

We zipped from there off to a night bus tour that took us to the highest point in Istanbul to watch the sun set over Asia and Europe, and suffered from some terrible traffic on the way there. Apparently one of the bridges was closed due to some once-every-40-years maintenance schedule, and so everything was being routed over the bridge we took. That would have been ok, since we’re used to traffic, but it was accompanied by some really bad turkish traditional music on a short repeat. Normally that music would have filled in the bits between the recorded narrative, but instead we heard it hundreds of times. Mr. A said his nightmares were punctuated by its cadences.

A carpet vendor at Arasta Bazaar… the whole bazaar thing was much fancier than I’d expected. I thought it would be more like a street market. Bizarre

The next day we started with another great breakfast, and then hit up the Topkapi Palace, armed with our handy all-museum pass. While the guidebooks dissuade you from the Harem, suggesting it’s lewd, or somehow uninteresting, I think it was the best part of the whole palace, and certainly the least crowded. There’s a separate admission fee, unless you have the museum pass, so most people skip it. It’s really lovely, however. You get to see the insides of the actual home of the court, so it’s all the most decorated and cozy bits. There’s one creepy recreation of the Queen mother with some of the concubines, but other than that, it’s a great tour. I might have sprung for the audio tour if I’d known that there’d be so many things to learn about in there, but the rental place was all the way back at the palace entrance. We made do with the official signboards, which were pretty decent, actually, compared to the other sights in town.

Near our apartment, a sidewalk had these great glowing cobbles interspersed among the stones.

We sat in a grove on the palace grounds so that Neko could have her elevenses, saw the treasures of Mecca, skipped the royal treasury (because six million people were in line to get in), and wandered off back toward the center of things. The afternoon saw us use our bus tour tickets from the night before as passes for the day tour (interesting, but nothing special unless you actually take the time to HopOn HopOff at some of the sights). We followed that with a delectable dinner of contemporary Turkish cuisine at the highly recommended (by us and other) Oceans 7 in Sultanahmet, and made some purchases at the bazaar beneath the Blue Mosque.

That is paradise. We picked up some black zebra tomatoes that were the sweetest tomatoes I’ve ever had (surprisingly so), and some dark cherries. We brought them home, along with a couple weird chocolates, a box of kinder-egg knock-offs and a can of black olives. I heart Carrefour.

But, it wasn’t until the last day that we really became Istanbullus. Because on that day, we went to a mall. Yes, folks… a shopping mall. There, we saw a food court with 7 options of kebap and 3 kofta places (but no chinese or mexican…), 2 cart vendors selling “magic” corn, a kids play area… and we bought… an iPad! Yeah! A replacement for my broken computer! I’m still trying to figure things out, and epic blog posts like this one are still better on Mr. A’s computer, I think, but it’s been addictive already. We also toured the wonders of Carrefour (our second ever), and brought back salted olives, cherries and tomatoes to Dhaka. Awesomely good cherries and tomatoes. California quality.

Why am I still here? I need to go back and get me some more of that Turkish produce.

So, what did we miss? We did not visit the Grand Bazaar, the Egyptian/Spice Bazaar, the Chora Museum, Miniaturk (a miniatures park), the Aquarium, the largest shopping mall in Asia, a Bosphorus boat tour (we’d been on enough boats!), a dancing show (didn’t think Neko could hack it, and didn’t have food to sustain her with a babysitter). Some of these we weren’t interested in, some we didn’t have the time to see. Essentially, we need to go back. Soon. And live there. So don’t bid on it, unless you’re not on our cycle, then you can.

——

For fans of AdventuresIn who went to college with yours truly, Peaches, Istanbul was stop 2 on my “Jesus to Muhammad” bucket list. (That’s the name of a formative course also famous for weeding people out of the Honors program when I was there.) While there, we got our fill of ancient buildings, relics, mosaics, ionic/doric/corinthian columns, and egg-and-dart motifs. Some of those we actually saw in Olympos, but we’ll group them all together for simplicity’s sake. The previous stop on the list was Rome, and that was way back in 1998, so… er… I’d better pick up the pace if I want to visit the rest of the sites before I join them in moldering away. It’s a good thing I don’t have a list for any of the other 3 courses in the series, or any of the other innumerable courses I’ve taken, though Aix-la-Chapelle and the abbey at Cluny are on the life list, and were part of the J2M+ course series.

…The Turquoise Coast

A pancake vendor near St. Nicholas Island. We tried the Lemon and Sugar. Absolutely Divine. Other options included Nutella and Banana or Spinach and Cheese.
The BlueKey, our (not really a sailing) yacht for the week.

Southwestern Turkey is known by the doubly meaningful “Turquoise Coast.” The water is both blindingly blue, and the country is Turquoise (or Turkish, in it’s more Anglophone spelling).

We just got back from a weeklong break from Dhaka to Turkey. Yes, I know, we’re doing a lot of travelling recently, but we’ve got to make sure we take all the trips possible from here before we leave, no? And other than Sri Lanka, a few of the Emirati airports and some of China’s lesser known cities, we’ll have made a nearly complete tour of all the “direct flights from Dhaka” before we go. Turkey is the longest haul from here, (though Biman flies to London as well, that’s just too far for a short visit). 

So, to Turkey.

We divided our week into two bits, a sailboat cruise along the coast and a urban sightseeing adventure in Istanbul.

The beach at Olympos

The first bit was incredibly HOT. The weather was promised to be in the 80s (35 C), but it was instead in the hundreds. Since the boat was in the sun, without a/c, this was a bit of a challenge. Most people sleep on the boat deck, but in a fit of modesty, and for fear that Neko would keep everyone awake, she and I tried to tough it out in the cabin the first night. And, yes, it was torture. I would have been less (sweaty) wet if I’d slept floating in the Mediterranean. The rest of the nights we kipped it on the deck, midnight wake-ups and feedings be damned. And, no one even noticed she woke up (3-4 times a night). I was refreshed and happy. Sleeping outside under the stars with a 6 month old? Priceless.

Of course, when we got home a week later, she had a bit of sleep regression. She must have liked snuggling cozy between us on a gently rocking boat. Yes, that does sound nice.

Some of the really tasty food aboard. The crew shopped in the towns along the way to ensure fresh ingredients. Olives, tomatoes and fresh bread… Roasted fish, eggplant, pasta….
An open market shop in Kas.

We visited the lovely village of Kas, which has the air of the Riviera, and is the kind of place that people dream of for a retirement home. Quaint cobbled streets, bright white stucco, wooden shutters, geranium window boxes, tiled roofs, shady central squares, open fresh markets…. Such a happy day. We bought a handpainted bowl, comparison shopped on ice cream (one guy charge us 2.50 lira for a cone, another guy charged twice as much! We ate both), and watched as a steady stream of competetive swimmers made their way from the waterfront end of the race to the main town.

We also stopped in at a few ruinous sights (the ancient Roman town of Olympos, the sunken city of Kekova, the Island of St. Nicholas). We visited a hippy backpacker campground and farm only accessible by boat known as the Butterfly Valley, but butterflies were out of season, and we only saw 2. A great waterfall and some crickets and grasshoppers, though. We missed the Lycian tombs and the mysterious Chimera flames, but that’s just more reason to head back down there some time, right?

We did a lot of swimming (even Neko), and (forgetting that I’d applied sunscreen while wearing a shirt) got really sunburnt in a 15 minute snorkeling session. I missed out on further swimming because the burn was pretty bad, and didn’t really snorkel in the best spots, so that was a bit disappointing.

Swimming with Neko

The water felt really salty at first, but was alternately bathwater warm and chillingly refreshing. You could see about 30 feet down in most places and some of our fellow travellers used the opportunity to dive under the keel of a boat. Most everyone else on the boat was from down under, deeply tan and on extended journeys (of a year or more) before they returned home. I felt like a bit of a fly-by-night tourist.

Ruins at Olympos. Nearly all the rocks were chunks of ancient buildings.

Overall, I highly recommend the Turquoise Coast, though you don’t need to see it by yacht. Most of the harbors offer day long tours to the same sights we saw slowly over three days. Of course, you miss out on sleeping under the stars if you do, but you’ll be blessed with air conditioning instead. It’s a toss up.

Tomorrow, a recap of Istanbul.

Happy (and hot) hikers.

…Bhutan

So, I am way late on blogging about our adventure in Bhutan, but, in my defense… I did get pretty sick the last day, and that lowered my motivation level for recalling it. But, it wasn’t Bhutan’s fault that I got sick, but Dhaka’s. I carried influenza with me from here. That gave me a rather novel opportunity to review their healthcare, which, more or less, reminded me of the summer camp nurses’ offices from my youth. Wood paneling… Tylenol… lots of cardboard boxes with handwritten labels. I had an IV, with a latex tubing system. Latex? What is this… 1960?

Regardless, Bhutan was beautiful, very peaceful, and very clean. The air was wonderfully brisk, both because of the chill and because of the lower oxygen content at altitude.

The view from the plane

We arrived on a direct flight from Dhaka, wending through the mountainous landing path before touching down. You really do feel like you could reach out and touch the surrounding mountains, and the pilot cannot land on a straight descent. The planes are all relatively small for international travel, as they have to negotiate the tight mountain terrain. We deplaned onto the tarmac, and all the tourists immediately started snapping pics of the plane, the flight attendants, the views, the tiny airport, etc. So did we. We were tourists too, after all.

On the tarmac. Look at that lovely sky!

Our guide picked us up after immigration. To visit Bhutan, you must purchase a rather expensive daily visa that includes a guide, lodging and meals (though upgrades are available). For us, that included a hotel room with a private bath, a space heater and a private sun porch. It was rather chilly, but the hotel staff was great, and loved taking Neko from us to play with her. The food was decent, if not terribly interesting, though they did have the weird cheese dish that everyone says you must try. I couldn’t face it.

The entrance to our hotel

Our first day we spent visiting some museums, cultural sites, and temples. On the second day, we attempted the famous Tiger’s Nest trail. OMG. There are a lot of stairs. If you’re of a smaller-than-average-American size, you can take a mule/donkey ride half way up to the view point. I recommend it, especially if you’re coming from sea level. If you have a chance to acclimate before the trek, it’s lovely. For me, it was rather challenging. (I didn’t know that I was coming down with the flu either). Neko spent most of the uphill bits complaining, and we had some interesting experiences changing and feeding her along the very busy trail. We all rested at the viewpoint before having lunch and returning to the valley floor. So, no, we didn’t make it all the way to the Tiger’s Nest.

A third of the way up. The first viewpoint. The cafe is another 30 minutes from here.

That night, I started feeling poorly and by the time that Mr Adventure was up, I thought I was going to die. (You know how it is when you’re sick….) The influenza got me, even though I’d had my shot. I piteously requested to go to the hospital NOW, and we eventually got there. I had the slowest IV drip ever (1 liter in something like 7 hours?), and it took forever for me to feel better. Mysterious injections, pills, etc… and a series of doctors who came to look. One diagnosed me with the common cold. Er… who has ever had a severe fever, bone aches, etc. from a cold? Anyway, they were all friendly too, even if relief from the dehydration and pain was slow in coming. The staff also really wanted to spend the day playing with Neko, so she enjoyed herself meeting all her new friends.

Neko with our guide

Our visit to the hospital meant that we missed Thimpu, the capital. We did get to do a little shopping and picked up a temple decoration for Neko’s future room. It’s very brightly colored, and hangs from the ceiling like a valance.

Would I go again? Er… it’s really pretty, but I’m not sure it’s worth the price. The visa fee isn’t as bad as the cost of the flight. 45 minutes in the air at a rate of almost $20 per minute. Kinda steep (lol).

It was a calm and pleasant respite from Dhaka, and something unusual, for sure. It was also good practice for traveling with Neko. She was a trouper and lived up to her reputation as a people lover. Right now, everyone is her friend. She’d rather be at a party than anywhere else. Bhutan was perfect for that.