30/04/2010

How to journey to the North of England in difficult circumstances.

This is a very special guest post from the sixteen year old Mary Wollstonecraft, who writes about moving to Yorkshire because her feckless father, once again, lost all his money.

Dear Readers

It has been requested of me by a friend that I make a humble contribution to a sort of log book, the nature of which I am as yet unclear about. If I reflect on the topic it seems to me that the weblog is not a letter nor a diary, and perhaps 'tis closer to the pamphlet. I have seen a pamphlet, several, indeed, in the library of my new friend's father – he is a philosopher, I believe. But I must not digress already. My task, if I may call it so, is to recount to the best of my as yet unrealised abilities, my experience of growing up a young woman in late eighteenth century, zombie-ridden Yorkshire.

28/04/2010

There's useless stuff and useless stuff. And sour grapes, too.

This week's entry for the Sleep is for the Weak Writing Workshop.

Our home is full of stuff that is essentially useless... except we're using it. So there's retired religious book holders we use to pile up big books, old photo albums, and, well, bits of paper; Copper incense burners where we keep last autumn's conkers, big ceramic vases containing charming yet potentially eye poking bouquets of assorted sticks that we pick up on walks...

Yes, you're getting the picture, we buy useless stuff to hold other useless stuff. As long as it's wood, or metal, or something old, we're big fans. We just don't seem to see it as clutter. It's family.

27/04/2010

Portraits

This week at Sticky Fingers' Gallery, the topic is ...


It was bad news indeed!

I'm really getting caught up in the game, and each week I wait impatiently for Wednesday, to look, and Friday, to find out...

So last Friday I came, I saw, and ... felt defeated (veni, vidi, victa sum?)

My husband, my sweet husband, who is not allowed to forbid any thing... completely forbids the posting of photos of our daughter, or himself anywhere on the web (except for his nostrils, but that's a different story).

As far as I am concerned I categorically forbid myself or anyone else to post photos of me anywhere whatsoever.

Which leads me to this week's Gallery theme...portraits.

Arggg!

So I thought and thought...

And here's what I came up with (no one said it had to be brilliant, did they?)

Oh, and if you're British, or watch British tv, note that I am no way related to Susan Boyle, thank you very much.

So here we are: first me, then my daughter.








26/04/2010

Making time

I find it incredibly difficult to keep any kind of structure in my life. After a change in routine or schedule it usually takes me several months to reinsert some of the things that 'drop out' because I can't make the time. And I'm an academic, married to a husband who actually does half the chores and childcare! What must it be like for the average professional woman with children and a husband who doesn't believe in domestic responsibilities? I can't even begin to imagine.

In fact, I wonder there are any such women at all! (Ok, I know you're out there. I just didn't want to say something as trite as 'I don't know how they do it!' Much less offensive to question your existence, right?)

I'm thinking of all this because this week, I'm GOING BACK TO THE GYM! I will go, that is, provided I've filled my quota of words on the book, which I can't very well be doing if I'm blogging...

But if the last few weeks are anything to go by, I should be ok. I typed out the requisite number of words and still had time to grade essays. In fact, I'm beginning to wonder (for the nth time) whether it's not actually easier to get things done when you've more to do (within reason!). My first experience of this phenomenon was writing my Ph.d. For the first three and a half years, my writing style had been pretty much the same as any other grad student, i.e. spend an afternoon in front of the computer, go out and get drunk to celebrate, have a terrible hangover the next day and stay in bed, then for the rest of the week alternate between running around like a headless chicken trying to get your teaching done and feeling sorry for yourself because you're not writing.

And then I had my daughter. And then, for one, I couldn't get drunk (breastfeeding and all) and also, the hours I had for writing were so precious I simply couldn't waste them. Knowing that husband and baby were out for a duration of precisely three hours and that I would have to do the same for him later so he could write his Ph.D. thesis meant I sat down and wrote the damn thing. It also helped me to acquire some pretty good writing and organisational habits. I don't spend so much time not writing now. I'll always manage to put some words on the screen, even if I know they're not very good words. It comes down to knowing it's not that hard, that it doesn't matter that much, that it's just a job.

And as far as realising that time just isn't flexible is concerned, just put a hungry child at the end of a stretch and try see if it will extend!

But if time were flexible, what would I like to have more time for? That's an easy one: sleep. I'd like to go to bed at night, not worrying that I won't get enough sleep and that the next day will harder as a result. I'd like to wake up rested every morning, and then have the chance to stay in bed a little longer. Without children jumping on me, with no one there except my husband. And I'd like this while at the same time keeping the wonderful hectic lifestyle I've got right now. So yes, it is an extension of time I'm after, not a change of life.

Can anyone arrange this for me?

This post was written for Karen and Carly's weekend assignment#315: The Thief of Time.

25/04/2010

How to make the perfect crepe





Yesterday I posted a picture of Max eating a chocolate crepe on fb (with a candle, don't ask), and got a flurry of comments from people demanding a make them one. Cleary, they didn't know how. Or felt they couldn't. Yet, there's nothing quite as easy as making a crepe. So I say it's time to burst the myth that crepes are hard to make!

First thing you need, is a special pan. Not that special, but teflon, and if possible, with low edges (although that doesn't really matter). The important thing is that you don't use it for anything else, otherwise, it will get scratched and your pancakes will suck.

Then there's the ingredients: 500g flour, 250g sugar, 50g melted butter, 3 eggs, 1.25l milk. That will make you shitloads of pancakes and last for days. If you want to make less, I suggest you use 1 whole egg and one egg yolk and divide everything else by two.
You might need to use more milk. It will depend on how the batter is behaving on that day. More on that later.

So you mix everything up. Dry ingredients, then add the eggs, the melted butter, the milk, little by little, mixing all the while. If you're the kind of person who always ends up with lumps, here's what you can do to avoid getting them. First, use a flat wooden thing to stir, not a spoon shaped things. Warm up the milk a little before you start pouring it it will make things easier. (Just bang it in the microwave it the measuring jug, no need to dirty a pan!). If you still get lumps, try to flatten them against the side of the bowl using a ladle. And if there'still there when you've got more than half the milk in then whisk the mixture a bit, by hand. Mostly, try not to worry about them. Lumps feed on fear.



It's a good idea to let the batter 'rest' for a bit before you cook it. It's had a tiring time fighting all those lumps. And there's some kind of chemical process going on which means you'll get better pancakes if you wait. You can even make the batter the night before if you're that kind of person. Maybe you could make some coffee while you're waiting. Or have a bath.

When you come back to the batter, eye it up to see if it might need a bit more milk. It probably will. It needs to be 'thin', and runny, not heavy. So just bang in a bit more milk, and put your pan on the stove top.

The pan needs to be hot. So leave it there a while before you do anything else. Then add butter. Just a knob. Make sure it covers the whole area when it melts. I sometimes use a bit of kitchen paper to spread it. It shouldn't go brown - if it does, your pan is too hot.

Then get your ladle, a normal metal soup ladle, and fill it up not quite to the brim, less if, like me, you've got a smallish pan. As you tilt your pan to make the batter go round, it should be that you've got just enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan. It should be a stretch. If it's not, then you put too much batter and it won't be as good.



Then you wait. If you're the kind of person who gets nervous about trying out new recipes you'v probably let your coffee go cold. Go warm it up. Don't stray too far, though.

About a couple of minutes in, the first side should be cooked. What you do is you take a flat wooden spoon (a clean one!) and you lift the pancake a bit. If it lifts easy, then it's ready. If it feels heavy and it's still very yellow underneath, then just leave it.

So you can flip it. (yeah, right). Or, like me, you can turn it using a couple of these flat wooden things (they have a name, don't they?). Just lift the crepe a bit with the smaller one, insert the bigger one as far as you can, then lift and turn. If it's cooked enough it will work, no sweat.



Then, unless you're some kind of puritan who prefers things not to taste too good, add a knob of butter on the cooked side. Yes, it's important. Leave a minute of so, then you can put your toping of choice. Max had nutella, and I had sugar. I believe if you're British, you will insist on putting lemon as well. Go ahead. Knock yourself out

.

24/04/2010

Week-End Charter : Candles on a satsuma



A couple of months ago, I booked tickets to go see « M » As usual, I got it wrong and booked the wrong date. The tickets I got were for may 20th 2010, which also happens to be my daughter’s 3rd birthday. I immediately called friends, sold the tickets, and got new ones. The new ones are not as good, they’re for the Bercy concert hall rather than the Olympia, and they’re in December.

When I was little, I had the greatest babysitter. We loved each other deeply. I think I wanted to marry him, a little, and he liked me so much he had a picture of me on his wall (yep, the one you're seeing now). I only found out years later, or I didn’t remember and Sandrine told me about it. He was always taking my side when I fought with my sisters, he would always hug me whenever I wanted him to, and he made funny noises with his nose.

If I could only remember one thing about him, it would be the evening of my birthday. I must have been either 3 or 4 years old . He came in that night as usual, made us dinner – he looked after my sisters, of course. After dessert he let them go off to play while we stayed in the kitchen. Then, he grabbed a satsuma and pricked small blue candles on its skin. He lit them, and started singing Happy Birthday. I know he said something to me then, something sweet, but I don’t remember what . I sang along, we blew the candles and shared the satsuma.

When people asked me why I wouln’t keep my concert tickets, and told me that Roxane was way too small to care and that she didn’t really understand it was her birthday, that we could tell her it was the next day - people really say the strangest things don’t they ? - all I could reply, was : « I won’t let my daughter blow her candles on a satsuma».

It doesn’t make me sad, it’s not such big a deal, and I'm pretty sure my parents celebrated my birthday a few days later and that I got tons of presents, but I figure if it stayed in my memory for so many years and chose to come back to me now, it must have been important to the little girl I was.


Weekend Charter: Turning 40




This week our theme came from Sister 3. We called her up late last night - as she was just coming home from work!!! - and said we were stumped. So she said: ' why don't you do something on birthdays?' And of course that would come to her mind. This time of year is big on birthdays in our family. Both my sisters and my father had birthdays recently. And even my husband's family treats this month as 'Let's be born and Party' time. In fact, he's in Istanbul right now having a joint celebration with his mum. He's just turned 40 and she 70. 40. I know. More on that in a minute.

My husband took our daughter with him for a bit of quality travelling , and Max and I decided to stay home. We're having a good time of it so far. He's playing lots of make believe games and watching everything he likes on tv (unlike me: why isn't Glee! on my streaming channel yet?). He's even persuaded me to make some chocolate crepes. Husband and daughter report having a really good time too, and MIL told me yesterday she's loving her celebration. So, so far so good.

Except I'm left here worrying about turning 40. Because Husband and I were born a few months apart the same year (1970 - an excellent vintage for philosophers).

It's not that I'm worried about getting older. I've come to realise over the years that this tends to happen on a day to day basis rather than on big birthdays. No, I'm fine with that. It's more to do with the realisation that, come forty, you're meant to be a certain way. Respectable, maybe. Adult, definitely. Better dressed. So with a few months to go, I'd like to review the list of 'Things I'm meant to have got right before turning 40' and see how I score. Why don't you see how you score too if you're not 40 yet? And if you are 40, feel free to add things to my list!

Things I'm supposed to get right before turning 40

1) I suppose I should know how to drive. And I should own a car. You know, one of those big things that stand high on the road, has a big boot for putting all the bikes and shopping bags, and the kids are permanently strapped in the back sipping juice from boxes, making crumbs, and peeing in bottles. Everyone else I know who's 40 drives and has one of these. Except my husband. Plus it's just not going to happen.

2) I think I ought either to wear heels, or 'sensible shoes'. I don't think I'm going to be allowed to wear Converse and Harley Davidson boots once I'm 40. And I might as well give up on the idea of buying the new pair of DM's I've been wanting for the last ten years (as my old ones died just as I was leaving England). No one is going to sell me them once I'm 40.

3) Probably there will be compulsory trips to the hairdresser. Maybe I'll turn grey and have to 'colour'? Or cut it very short and dye it blue? It's not that I don't trim my hair. I'm aware of the dangers of split ends, and what they can do to your general health and well-being, as well as the social stigma. So a few weeks ago, I took the pair of scissors that I got for free from Boots ten years ago, and I trimmed. So what if it's not very regular - my hair is one big long mess anyway, who's going to notice?

4) They might make me wear make up, mightn't they? I might have to attend a class in a department store on how to apply it. Foundation and all. Maybe I could get a friend to plaster it on on the day they test me, and then the respectable police will leave me alone.

5) I once read in a novel by the woman who wrote Sex and the City that forty year old women now look better than thirty year old ones. That they've lost weight, had 'things done', and are generally more toned and better dressed. Oops. Shit. Not gonna happen.

6) Oh yes, I should be somewhere on the property ladder, shouldn't I, not leaving on University accommodation. Well, we've been looking at the ladder recently. There's this cute little house in Selcuk, near Izmir, we'd really like to own for our holidays. It's cheap but not so cheap we can buy it outright, and borrowing money in Turkey if you're a foreigner can be complicated. So probably not going to happen.

7) Re: money. I'm pretty sure we're supposed to have more than we do. But hey, we've got retirement funds! Yes, we have! And some savings! (though not enough to buy a very small house in Turkey, and probably not enough to buy a car in the UK). And no debts! Hurrah!

8) I should have written a book. Not a philosophy book, been there done that. But a novel. I should be a best selling novelist by now. And very rich so I could buy lots of cars I can't drive and cute little houses on the sea side.

9) Should I have had another child? I was hoping to have three. But with Max's diagnosis and the life complications that ensued we decided that probably not. Not before we're 40 anyway. Plus we can't afford a third. Plus two is far too much work already! How am I supposed to hold down a job, save for a house and write a best-seller if I have three kids?

10) Know who I am. Well, fuck that for a lark. I'm a philosopher, I'm entitled to skepticism about personal identity. So that's one I won't worry about.


I would have thought a few pictures of Istanbul might conclude this post nicely. Except I'm not there to take them. So instead I'll treat you to a photo of what Max is up to while his sister is away.



23/04/2010

Boys will be boys will be autistic ... my arse!

Let me just say outright that I'm not a psychologist. Never have been, never will be. And I am rather more familiar with the work of Sasha Baron-Cohen than that of his cousin Simon Baron-Cohen. But I have read one book by him: Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.

Hold on, that's not it. It's called: The essential difference: men, women and the extreme male brain. It argues basically that men and women think differently, and that autistic people's minds are like extreme versions of men's minds. So the female brain is 'hard-wired for empathy' and the male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems'.

Please take a moment to reread the first sentence of this post.

Now put together a few choice words as rude as you like (come on, you can't outdo me on this one). This is what I think of SBC's theory of men, women, and autism. Maybe he's got a good theory of the animal mind. Although as far as I know, the only scientist who's gone anywhere with that is Temple Grandin, who's autistic herself, and happens to disagree rather with SBC's characterisation of her mind. She says thinks like a cow, not a man, thank you very much.

Prof. Baron-Cohen, to be fair, does present the reader of his book with scientific evidence to back up his theory. He interviews a woman who has had a boy and a girl. Under strict experimental conditions, the woman recounts how her little girl really liked organising teaparties and such like with her friends, whereas her little boy preferred to play with cars. She declares, also under strict experimental conditions, never to have encouraged such behaviour in either of them. There you are then! Evidence that boys are abstract thinkers and girls nurturers! Oh, you know what? Rousseau said that too! Women can't do abstract thought, and men don't care about silly emotional things (because they're too busy having important thoughts about systems).

From there it is but a small but perfectly logical step to observe that yes, autistic children like things that go round and round, that car wheels go round and round, therefore that autistic children are like boys.

The contrary of empathy, SBC tells us, is mindblindness. You just can't figure out what another person is feeling, because you can't gather all the details, or put them together. It's like being really insensitive. Like telling your girlfriend she's just looking a bit pudgy when she asks you if her dress makes her look fat. And then not getting why she's upset. It's like being a man, really. Except not. Autistic people aren't very good at saying the right thing. Heck, some of them aren't very good at saying anything at all. But this doesn't mean they don't understand how you feel! It doesn't mean they don't get you, or that they don't feel your pain.

The word autism means, literally, to be on one's own (hold on there, I'm talking about etymology, not about what autism really is!). Autistic people are supposed to be locked up in their own little world, incapable of interacting with the rest of us, normal people. Sometimes they are. On occasions, a lot less now that he's older, I would have huge difficulties distracting my son from playing with a wheelie toy. He wouldn't look at me, hear me. But other times - again less now - he would cover his ears, as if in pain, for a noise I barely heard. He would refuse to look a person in the eye, going to huge trouble to avoid having to do so, always aware of where that person was, when they might be trying to look him in the eyes. Why on earth would he, and other kids like him, behave like this if their awareness of other people's minds was minimally functional? Why be afraid of something you're not noticing?

Now, if you ask an autistic person, they might tell you this: autistic people tend to be extra aware of everything. To the extent that it hurts. So sometimes, the easiest thing is just to block the input and retreat into a world of their own. When they grow up and they learn to negotiate all the loudness and brightness, they might spend less time on their own. My son tends to pick up on the slightest noise - the buzzing of supermarket fridges used to bother him, and he can hear a plane or helicopter a long time before we hear it. But he also picks up on any tiny emotional disturbance in the family. If he feels that we are stressed about something, he worries, gets stressed up himself. If he feels we are tired, sad, sick, he becomes cuddly, he looks out for us. He certainly doesn't lack empathy.

As far as I can tell, all the little autistic and asperger kids at the centre he attends are like that. They're kind, they're tuned in to what people around them feel. They can really pick up, among the parents and relatives in the common room, who's uncomfortable with them, or who's trying too hard. A lot of the older kids usually make a beeline for my handbag, and look for whatever electronic piece of equipment I happen to have on me. They can just tell I'm a fellow geek!

What these children seem to be not so good at is reacting. My son still thinks people like it when he tries to lick their ears. He keeps on doing it. But he'll only to someone who wants to play with him in the first place, and someone who's not going to respond harshly. Any social interaction works better on a one to one basis, where he can really concentrate on doing what he's supposed to do. A large group of kids wanting to play with him is just a bit too much. He only recently started going to birthday parties again, after a two year break. Allright, so he's afraid of balloons as well, which doesn't help. But perhaps more importantly, he just couldn't cope with all these kids being excited at the same time. His emotional radar, a bit too finely tuned, was going on overdrive.

So as far as I'm concerned, not only does Sasha's 'clever cousin' succeed in rewriting Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, giving it a scientific gloss that is bound to reinforce sexist prejudice, but what he says about autism really flies in the face of the experience reported by autistic people, and by those who care for them. Maybe Simon should try going into comedy. Except right now, I'm not laughing.

last week in pictures

And here's Sister 3's weekly wrap up:

Bad things happen while you're sleeping :

22/04/2010

Ghost Story

This week's entry for the Sleep is for the Weak Writing Workshop.


I was a late reader. I learnt to read when I was 6, like everyone else and liked it instantly. But by the age of 10, I was more interested in real life and I put the books away. I only picked them again when I was 14, so that’s a whole 4 years without reading much.

The book that got me back on the reading train was Stephen King’s It. It scared the hell out of me and made me realize books were actually as cool as life, sometimes even better. I haven’t stop reading since, but I gave up King pretty quickly ;) Anyway, he'd given me a taste for horror stories and I was secretly hoping something creepy would happen to me one day.

It happened when I was visiting friends in the States, near New York. One of them was a librarian and I was waiting for him to end his shift.

I decided to wait in a reading room, upstairs. I climbed the stairs, looked around the three rooms on that floor and settled for the empty one as I figured I wouldn’t be disturbing anyone there. So I sat, picked up a book and started reading – I know, so original in a library. After a couple of minutes, I started feeling bored. I got up, walked to the window, but felt compelled to go back to my seat. I returned to the chair, going all around the big table instead of heading straight back. I was feeling dizzy, cold and very hot at the same time. When I sat again, I couldn’t remember exactly what had just happened, but I felt something wasn’t right. My hands shaking slightly, my legs wobbling, I went down the stairs and as I was going down, I was starting to feel better. I was still under the impression that something was forcing me to move, that I wasn’t in control any more.

I didn’t mention it to my friend right away. His shift had ended, we went out for a smoke and then I told him all about it. He stared for a while and then said : « I cannot believe this. I’ve been working here five whole years, going to that room nearly every day hoping something would happen to me and you get ghost vibes the minute you get there » . He then explained that the library was known to be haunted and that several people had experienced weird things over the years. He said how they had described exactly what I had just told him, sharing the same disturbing feelings. At that precise moment, I looked up to the room and I SWEAR I saw someone smile. Just a smile, actually, the someone didn’t really seem to be there. You know, like the Cheshire cat. I told my friend but by the time he looked, the smile was gone. He wanted to go back there with me but I begged him to take me home.

Creepy, huh ?

21/04/2010

Seven Deadly Sins

This week at Sticky Fingers' Gallery, the topic is the 7 deadly sins.
Marianne and Sister 3 had lunch together at our mother's at the weekend, and they came up with the ideas and Sister3took the pictures. Then chaos ensued: Sister 3's internet connection went down and one of her photos, lust, was lost. We needed something fast, and we had to keep with the spirit of Sister 3's other pictures, i.e. it had to be a body part. So Marianne and I got Skyping, and we eventually came up with, to us, the perfect solution. It's not our own and we merely add it so we can complete the lot. We hope you enjoy our lust as much as we do!

WRATH

Align Centre



ENVY




GLUTTONY





COVETOUSNESS





PRIDE






SLOTH





LUST


Enjoy...

19/04/2010

What I'll mostly be reading this summer

Right. I've found another weekly meme writing type thingy to do. Which is good because Marianne is going to do the Sleep is for the Weak Writing Workshop from now on. This one's called called Weekend Assignment and the topic is Summer Reading.

Here's the instructions:

Okay, yes, I know, it's still spring, but this is when I begin thinking about what kind of summer reading I might like to have on hand for those too-hot-to-clean days of summer. So, for this week's assignment, I want you to share with us the kind of summer reading you look forward to the most. Sci-fi? Horror? Political Thrillers? Romance? It's all good. Now, tell me more!
Extra Credit: Okay writers, get to work! Write me the opening paragraph, just (1) paragraph of a summer read you would like write yourself. Again, any genre works fine, have fun with it!

Huh, that's a good one. Summer reading. As in: it's summer, you can just lie about with a beer and a huge pile of books. As in: you're not going to have to work or chase after children on the beach all day long and drop exhausted as soon as the sun goes down. (It goes down early in Turkey, even in summer).

Ok, I'm playing martyr here. I am looking forward to summer reading, even if I won't be spending that much time on it.

Actually, I ordered some books from Betterworld books specifically for the summer. I ordered a guide book to Florence. Yes! I'm going to Prato, just outside Florence, in August, all by myself. I'll have two plane journeys and 6 whole days there with no children to worry about. Ok, I probably won't be doing that much reading, as it's a conference, and also, I'll be wanting to look around a bit. But still. I've ordered books. I ordered books I've already read, many times, just because it was Florence. So I ordered A Room with a view. And Where Angels Fear to Tread. And Howards End. (Nothing to do with Florence but I quite fancied re-reading it and it just so happens I didn't bring any of my E.M.Forster books to Turkey with me. But let's face it, by the time the books are out of the box I'll be half way through them. So maybe I need something more substantial.

Er, Dante? I suppose that's substantial and he's from Florence. I've read bits, but never cover to cover. Except I can't read it in Italian, so should I read it in French or English? Too much trouble to decide, I think. Or I could read that big fat book called the Dante Club that's been sitting on my bed side for nearly two years now. It's about translating Dante in America and black flies that eat people. Except there's a good reason why it's still on that pile: I didn't like it. But it looked like on principle I should like it so I left it on the pile. What do you do with a book you don't like? Can you give it away before you've read it? Advice welcome.

The book I'd really like to read if someone would bother to write it:

The authors of this book, out the kindness of their hearts, will proceed to teach you, clearly and concisely, but with plenty of cool, not-exactly-real-life case studies, how to stretch time, so that you can actually read more books in the summer, be relaxed as you're reading them, and remember more than just the title three months later. The book will go through various techniques in just enough details so you can try it at home but not so much you will be able to blame them if it doesn't work – after all, we know that you don't have time to do anything properly! We will start with how to put your children in suspended animation through yoga and simple relaxation techniques while you just finish that chapter (and maybe another one). Then we will take you through a step by step explanation of how to get the elves to do your work for you without having to pay them (this might also help take care of the children so you can read more than one chapter at a time). Last but not least, Mary Poppin's method for housework (finger clicking, spoonful of sugar song singing) will be described (but if you actually want to learn it, you'll have to pay a monthly fee of 30 dollars to some weird internet company).

But what I am really looking forward to reading this summer , or as soon as I can get my hands on it after it's published, is Charlaine Harris's latest instalment of the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire series: Dead in the Family!Dante be damned!

Oops, I think The Dante Club is somewhere in that lot...

18/04/2010

Week end charter : Marianne's Recipe


As usual, Sandrine will translate it if you guys want it in English. I could do it, but I'm just lazy.

Oh, la belle tourte aux jambon, champignons, et cheddar ! I dedicate this to Eleanor and Hannah.

Pour la faire aussi jolie , voilà les ingrédients :

250g de champignons de Paris (mais ça se trouve en dehors de Paris)

3 tranches de jambon blanc (Ah là par contre pour les gens en Turquie, c’est moins facile)

200 g de cheddar (mais on peut prendre n’importe quel fromage orange)

2 rouleaux de pâte feuilletée pur beurre, la plus chère que vous trouvez. Sinon vous la faites, mais bon courage, hein, c’est une galère sans nom.

Un jaune d’œuf. Donc un œuf entier, mais vous séparez le blanc. Ne faites pas comme moi qui SYSTEMATIQUEMENT me plante et jette la partie dont j’ai en fait besoin. Sinon, prévoir deux œufs. Avec le blanc qui reste, vous pouvez le battre très fermement, ajouter du sucre glace et fabriquer une meringue pour fourmi.

Voilà comment la préparer :

Préchauffer le four à 180°C. Si j’oublie de vous le dire après, faudra cuire la tourte 45 minutes. Environ, ça dépend de votre four, en vrai.

Etaler un rouleau de pâte dans un moule, piquer avec une fourchette. Attention aux doigts, aux bras et aux yeux.

Laver délicatement les champignons, tranchez les et faites les revenir dans du beurre (tiens, à rajouter dans les ingrédients) et laisser évaporer l’eau (pas à rajouter dans les ingrédients, c’est l’eau qui vient des champignons)

Etaler les tranches de jambon dans le fond de la tourte, le cheddar coupé en tranches assez épaisses et les champignons par-dessus. Poser le deuxième rouleau dessus et couper avec des ciseaux pour pas que ça déborde trop. Laisser déborder quand même, sinon après ça va être sportif.

Humecter (pas avec la langue, bande de crassous, c’est pas un timbre) les bords de la pâte et pincer les deux rouleaux ensemble, pour fermer.

Dessiner un quadrillage (ou une fleur, ou un auto-portrait) sur le dessus, appuyer un peu avec le couteau mais pas trop quand même. L’idée c’est que ça fasse joli, pas que les champignons se barrent par le dessus. Badigeonner avec le jaune d’œuf. Sinon ça ne dorera pas. Vous serez prévenus.

Mettez-là dans le four (Ah, j’y ai pensé !!) attendez que ça cuise, ne faites pas la vaisselle, faut pas abuser, vous avez déjà fait à manger, ouvrez une bouteille de vin, tiens, ça vous occupera, faites une petite salade et hop, à table.



Week end Charter : Marianne's version

The days I met the Macbeth witches on my way to work

I’ve been on my way to work for 10 years, now. God, I feel old. I still consider I’m on my way to work, because it seems to me I’ve spent ages trying to find the right job. I’m not even sure I found the right one yet, but I do hope so.

The first witch showed up on my way to my first job interview. I was on the train, heading to some ugly town in the Paris suburbs, and she sat next to me. She told me that I should take this job, that there was nothing more I could do anyway, that I was never going to make it in publishing. She also said I had to take it so that I could learn how to behave with others, how to keep my mouth shut and how to deal with hierarchy. She laughed, too. I believed her instantly, after all I’d been looking for a job as a junior editor for a whole year and nothing had come out of it except a lot of frustration. So I went to the interview, smiled, and met my first boss ever, who I was about to name Cruella.

The second witch showed up when my first child, my son, turned one. I was on my computer trying to find a nice cake to bake that he wouldn’t choke on and I saw an ad for a job. I figured I could give it a try. I sent an email and went to the interview the following week. The witch came with me on my first day, laughing really hard. She told me that she thought it was great that I took this job, but that I still had no idea how to deal with hierarchy problems and that her sister had asked too much of me the first time. So she said that she was sorry, but she had to send me there so that I could work on it. So I stayed for a little bit more than a year, and I left pretty abruptly, after a big fight and not feeling good about myself at all.

The third witch came to the next job interview. She was laughing even harder than her sister, and I really had trouble understanding what she said. I somehow managed to hear the words « hierarchy, this time we’ll have fun ». I really thought she was wrong, that I’d grown up and learnt. Well, she was right. I think that job was the worst situation eve for me : I worked for a couple, and the woman was both bi-polar and jealous. Not a good cocktail, trust me. However, I managed to leave elegantly, not get mad and not hit the bi-polar woman.

I started a new job last Monday. I’ll be a partner in the company pretty soon if things work out, so I’m pretty happy about it. For the first time ever I made a sensible decision, I gave it some thought, some time, I think I just became an adult !

On my way to work, I thought I heard a muffled sound, like a laugh. I shut my eyes really hard and repeated those words like a mantra « go away, go away, go away ». She never showed up. I think they’re on to someone else, now, heading to a new target. Please, please, let it be Cruella ;)

In flight movie

Nothing terribly exciting to report in Lost. Except that my husband has finally started watching it. He's on episode four, I think. First season, that is. I think he's hoping to catch up with me before the finale. He's on about two episodes a week. So anyway, he says: there are some really weird things happening in Lost. Yes, people. This is what it used to be like! Remember? Before season six began? We used to tune in every Wednesday (that's if you stream or download) for our dose of weirdness. But what, I ask, has happened so far in season six that could qualify even as slightly unusual? (Ok, there's the whole alternate reality thing, but when you've already had flashbacks and flash-forwards, you're a bit blase about that kind of stuff). So I'm thankful to my husband, and all those really behind people out there who're watching seasons before the last, for reminding me that Lost was once exciting.


Er, I thought I'd do a book review now, but I can't remember last time I read a book that wasn't Twilight or Mary Wollstonecraft related, so I'll pass for this time.


I'll do a product review though. I like the idea of these.

Lately I've been looking into pets (does it count as product if you can buy it? Or do you have to consume it? We certainly go through a lot of them). At the moment we've got turtles, Elvis and Priscilla, and a goldfish, Mimi. We used to have a Rodolfo fish as well, but Mimi outlived him (take that Puccini!)We can't have a cat because husband's allergic and we live on the ninth floor. We can't have a dog because our son is extremely afraid of them. But it's good for children to have pets, and in particular, it's good for children with autism. So I'm thinking about it. I took my son to the pet shop today to see if he'd show affinity to anything there. But the only thing that didn't freak him and attracted him was the fish. And we've already got one of those. I did some research on the internet a while back, and something that I think would be good for him is the teacup pig.

They're adorable, smaller than a dog, clean, don't bark, and can do tricks like ride on a skate board. But let's face it, we live in Turkey and people just wouldn't get the pig thing. Plus we'd probably eat it.

So I'm more than moderately attracted to what a friend referred to as a donkey no bigger than a house cat. Turks get donkeys (they're not allowed on the motorway but we could work around that.) More importantly, we wouldn't feel the urge to eat it.




Weekend Charter: This is the way I go to work!

This week we asked friends and readers to suggest themes for our weekend charter. The sillier the better we said. We won't say that again. Thanks to your overwhelming response on facebook we're now very nearly committed to writing about pillar box makers' marks, for instance. Not entirely clear what these are supposed to be but they can be bought on the internet, if you're interested.

Obviously, we won't be able to discuss all those themes at the length they deserve in any one post. So here's what: I'll try to mention as many as possible in the weekend charter, as well as in the in-flight movie. Marianne is being a perfectionist and focussing on two of them in order to put together a perfect little pearl of a post.

Just to show you how hard I'm working, (and how mentally unstable some of our friends are) I'll highlight the things that were suggested to us in bold.


This is the way I go to work, early in the morning!

I live a pretty humdrum kind of life. As in nothing particularly exciting happens to me (except when my building catches fire) and I have routines I love and don't deviate from unless I really, really have to. Also, I live in a pretty uninteresting place – it's a university campus in central Anatolia. There's some square, grey, not quite completed or already falling apart buildings, some grass and a few trees - but only because the gardeners stuck them there – and, apart from the sprinklers needed to maintain the grass, absolutely no water. On days when it's not cloudy, and when the pollution isn't covering anything that's more than ten meters away, you can see the mountains. So it's barren, dry, a bit intimidating, and I don't usually see anything interesting on the 5 minutes walk from our flat to the office.

But I have seen something weird. I haven't mentioned it to anyone because although weird, it wasn't exactly top news and the opportunity to talk about it just didn't come up.

One day last autumn, on my way to the office I saw five keys. That's oneper each minute of the walk. And I don't mean keys that were in people's hands or bags, or in locks. I mean keys lying around in places where they didn't belong.

Key number one was in the rubbish bin just outside the lift on my floor. There was nothing else there, just the key. No identifying mark on it. Just one plain metal ring.

Keys number two, three, four and five were just lying around on the pavement, the grass, in the gutter (except it's not really a gutter, it's just the bit between the pavement and the road. We don't have gutters here. When it rains, there's waves on the road, and then the extra dry Anatolian earth swallows it up in a matter of minutes.) They'd just been dropped there, in places where my eye was bound to fall and to notice the glinty little things. A bit like Easter eggs but not egg shaped and metallic. I did wonder if I was hallucinating – but turned down the hypothesis on the grounds that it would be a rather pointless thing to hallucinate about. Or if I'd fallen in some kind of fantasy world and someone was trying to give me an important message. Or if I'd always been in a fantasy world but only noticing just now. You know, like in a story in which ghosts exists and you don't believe in them and then one comes knocking on your door so you wake up to the fact of ghostly existence.

In any case nothing did happen. I worried for a bit about all these people who'd lost their keys. I checked my pocket for mine a couple of times. But I didn't find myself near a mysterious door that needed unlocking. I didn't come across an old witch (or three) on the side of the road who wanted me to exchange an old key for a brand new one. But what I did do, was keep quiet about it. Until today, that is. Because who on earth would be interested in my seeing keys lying about on my way to work? So I filed it in my head under 'keys' and 'weird things happening on the way to work', and kept it there, revisiting it occasionally when the world seemed a little wonky and not quite right.

I suppose because the road is so empty, and at 8.30 in the morning there are so few people on it, I do get to notice every little detail that's out of kilter. Later in the day, I don't. So once, for instance, I ran my hand on a bannister that was covered in wasps. Their outrage was such that one stung me here and there and the rest chased me across the street! But wasps are not keys, they belong on bannisters. (at least they think they do!) It was still a mystery.

Now that, thanks to my daughter, I'm a lot better informed about some things, I suspect I know exactly what was going on. I won't go into the details, but let me just say that if I'd looked around carefully, I'd have probably spotted a police box lurking around somewhere on my way to work!


An entry for Vegemitevix's Friday Funny a place to go to for a good laugh and to link to if you have something funny you want to share.


Spring was late this year.




What I'm finding increasingly on my way to work, also, is flowers. Nothing particularly strange about that, of course – except that people were beginning to suspect that winter would never end and it finally seems like it has. Except that the flowers here are colour coordinated. You get a few weeks of one (sometimes two) colours, and then all those flowers disappear to make room for the next colour. So for instance when we were in Cappadocia at Easter, I was hoping to find a lot of chamomile, but it wasn't yet time for white flowers, and every thing was covered in pesky yellow things! Every thing apart from the volcanic lake we visited – there the flowers were all different colours. Apparently volcanoes affect the ground in such a way that plant colour is affected. They had sheep grazing there. I wonder if the wool will turn a funny colour. Saves on dyeing.





So right now Anatolia is in its early yellow phase. In a while we'll have white as well as yellow. Then the yellow will go and we'll have white and blue. Then, if we're lucky we'll have my favourite combination: blue and red. Lots of corn flowers, thistles, other things I don't know, and tiny poppies that start off as black and turn blood red when they open. You can't pick them as they die straightaway. You can pick some of the others but then you'll bring home lots of insects as well. Also I like having them to look at in the morning when I go to work, so I'd rather you didn't.



15/04/2010

last week in pictures

More joy...


Mickey mouse takes Lion King to the prom:

Bad things happen while you're sleeping



Josie, aka @porridgebrain from Sleep is for the Weak runs a weekly writing workshop. She gives prompts and bloggers blog. I decided that although I'd really like to take part, I wouldn't have time to do it this week. Then I read her prompts, and I had flashback of something scary that happened to our family last year. Rather than dwell on it I decided to put it on paper (well, screen) and so here it is.

Bad things happen while you're sleeping.

I keep my phone by my bed at night. That's because I use it as an alarm clock (as if we needed one of those with Max getting us up at six every morning!)

I'd already been asleep for a few hours when it rung. It was our baby sitter, very apologetic for waking me up. 'I'm sorry to disturb you, she says, I know it's very late, but... your building is on fire and you need to get out. Now'. Still full of sleep I get up to look out the window, and sure enough, everyone is outside and fire engines are arriving.

But we're all still in bed.

We get the children up, tell them to put their shoes and coats on. I open the door and look out, half expecting to see flames. I don't but I can't see anything else either. The corridor is full of smoke. Thick, stinky, you can't breath through it, smoke. I think, that's it, we're fucked. I tell my husband: we can't get out. We go to the balcony and start calling out for help. Except we're on the ninth floor, so even if they could hear us, there's very little anyone could do. I try to picture throwing the children off the balcony onto a mattress below, and I shudder. It's not going to happen. And then, I just think, calmly: that's it, we're going to die. It's the end of our family. A year and a half later, I tremble just typing this. But at the time, it felt perfectly fine. I was resigned.

Then my husband said: Let's go out the fire exit. I'd completely forgotten we had one! I also didn't know that the smoke is rarely where the fire is. Fire spreads wherever there's stuff to burn, but smoke always goes up. So the fire in fact never left the second floor, where it started, but all the smoke was at the top of the building! We were never at any risk!

So off we went, in a hurry. My husband and son had only two shoes between them, the children weren't wrapped warmly enough, we had no water, despite the fact that right next to our front door we had an earthquake bag packed ready for any emergency! I had my phone, though.

So when we'd finished trudging down nine flights of flimsy metal outdoor stairs, we called a friend who brought us extra shoes water and blankets. Neighbours kept dropping sweaters on the children too, so we all felt better.

Strangely enough, although it was about 2am, we were the only ones in our pyjamas. Most of our neighbours are graduate students, and it seems that when the fire started they were all still up watching downloaded movies!

Our friend offered to take us back to his home to sleep. We declined as we were told that the fire was nearly out and we'd be able to go back to bed soon. That was a mistake. When we eventually made it back to the flat, it stank so bad we had to open all the windows, and, in the October night, it was freezing. The children were afraid, as well as cold, so we ended up all four of us in the same bed, unable to sleep, worried it might happen again.

Even though we would probably have been fine, I'll be forever grateful to our baby sitter for calling us: she'd been staying in her boyfriend's flat in the same building. Had it not been for her call, we'd have slept through it. Although the security people tried to get everyone out, they didn't bother waking up the people on the top floors... When I talked to our neighbour in the morning, I found out she just hadn't known about the fire. She burst into tears and ran off to call her husband.

The next day we saw people emptying out the burnt flat. I swear I saw a melted fridge!

The next day was also the day we took our son to a child psychiatrist who told us what we'd long suspected, that he had autism.



14/04/2010

joy sister3



This is Sister 3's entry for Sticky Fingers' Gallery. This week the theme is Joy.

8 October 2003

Joy!

after 5 years of waiting, hoping, losing hope, breaking up, of quickies, arranged quickies, purely technical love making, after weeks of injections, the phone rang!
I was pregnant!


Her name is Nina, she is nearly 6 years old, born 7 June 2004. She is my joy.
This was the happiest moment of my life.



On the other hand, when I asked my husband to tell me what image represented joy for him, this was his answer:



And if you were to ask me right now, my reply would be: my bed. Sleep and forget!!!




See our previous entries for the Gallery here.

Joy - Sandrine's version



Don't worry, Sister 3 will post her entry to Sticky Fingers' Gallery as usual. But this week, I had something I wanted to enter too. So she kindly let me.

My son, who finds it hard to form relationships with kids his own age has no such difficulties when it comes to girls a few years older than him. The prettier the better. And if they're exceptionally pretty, he'll even go for teenagers.

One of his biggest crushes is on a young woman we met in Capadoccia several years ago - her father drives us around sites in his minibus. She is 14 to my son's 7. He adores her and talks of her incessantly.

We hadn't been to Capadoccia since the autumn (too cold!) so he hadn't seen you H for a while.


This is how he felt when they got together again at Easter.


I call it joy.

13/04/2010

Our Very first meme - part 3

Marianne : 7 things you don’t know about me – yet

1) I’m a great person. Oh, dear, there you go, you knew that already, so I’ll go to number two.

2) I’m allergic to strawberries, kiwi and latex. I’ll let you guess which one annoys me most.

3) I am quite concerned by the outgrowing number of moles on my body. Do they keep coming to make me even more beautiful or just plain ugly ? Am wondering.

4) I can sing. As in, I can really sing and make a whole theatre full of people go quiet. I know, cause I saw it happening. And no, these people weren’t dead nor asleep.

5) I stole an ugly plate with Princess Diana and Prince Charles on it in London. I was 11 years old. Man, I’m wild.

6) If you tickle me doing the right movement at a very special place on my arms, my lovely laugh will turn into some awful sound that would make pigs not want me in their family for fear of being, well, laughed at.

7) I’ve always wanted to be a spy. Like, for real. Some sort of female Bond, with the guns, the half-naked boys falling for me and infinitely complicated cases to solve and countries to save. Who knows, maybe I am a spy, but we did say 7 things…

I’m sorry I don’t have much time to look at blogs, mainly because this one keeps me pretty busy ;) But I promise I’ll do better next time. Here’s one I like : go ahead and cook, people ! http://simplyrecipes.com/

Our very first meme! Part 2.

Seven things you didn't know about Sister 3






























And I nominate Dawn from The Moiderer, because she seems like a great person and I think her meme will be fun and tender.





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