31/12/2010

Christmas leftovers

Jesus it's been a long time. Two weeks since our last post. You'd think it was Christmas or something. Anyway, not that I have any thing in particular to relate, but I thought I would clutter your readers a little with a few random thoughts and pictures.


We had friends over for Christmas from Istanbul. We don't have a spare room, so we decided to sleep in the living room so that the children could come jump on us and open their presents first thing in the morning. Strike that. We didn't actually want them to jump on us. We wanted them not to jump on our guests.
We had a lovely time opening presents. 'Im indoors and I ended up giving each other the exact same gift! But more on that some other time.
We wanted a breakfast that was special, but didn't take any time to prepare and wasn't too much of a mess to clear up afterwards. So bagels and salmon it was! Special because it's not that easy to get bagels in Ankara, and because smoked salmon is, well, christmassy.





After that it was prepare, prepare, prepare. We were expecting twenty people for dinner so there was plenty to do. Of course some of it was already done: the mince pies you see on the breakfast table, the pudding, and most of the vegetables that had been cooked, peeled and pureed during the week. We had pureed celery, quince and black carrots. Yep. And if you don't believe me, here they are:



'Im indoors also made some red cabbage and apple, but, ever so unfortunately, could not find horrors, I mean brussels sprouts, in the shops this year. So, we had to do without. (Who on earth is responsible for the idea that brussels sprouts are a treat that should be served at Christmas? Because they're seasonal, you say? What's wrong with oysters?)

And of course there were roast potatoes, to go with the duck. And the two geese.

Because I nipped to Paris just before Christmas, I brought back a tin of foie gras and some cheese (Brillat Savarin, the kind that you spoon out). So we made that into little canapes (why are they called that? Canapes are things you sit on, in French).

'Im indoors, on these occasions, is mostly responsible for manning the oven. I'm in charge of the carving knife (to serve the birds but also to threaten people who skip line to get a second helping, which does happen when you've got a lot of guests). He managed to get two geese this year by ordering them from a butcher's in town and picking them up before the butcher had sold them to someone else, which he is prone to do. So here's a picture of the man and his bird.





 The birds in question are a fair amount of work to prepare. First, a goose is never plucked properly, so you always have to singe it before you do anything else. Then the little fuckers have this huge digestive tube that, for some reason, you have to take out. This involves sticking your arm up its arse, fiddling with the inside of its neck till you find the cartilage thingy and then pull. And pull. And pull some more till the bloody thing comes out.

Then you have to find the bits inside and sort the ones you can eat from the ones you can't. And from the ones your husband would quite like you to keep but you think it's too much of a hassle to prepare them so you bin them quickly while he's not looking. And all of this must be done at least a day before so you can soak the livers overnight before making the stuffing.

Then you make the stuffing. That's ok, provided you've already peeled the chestnuts. Not having brussels sprouts helped there, as we didn't have to keep whole chestnuts and it didn't matter if we made a mess while peeling them, or overcooked them before. And you need pork, of some kind, of course. And calvados. (Don't even mention breadcrumbs, rice, or sage, please. I do brussells sprouts and pudding for Christmas. Don't think that's English enough?)

The last bit of the bird preparation is the bit that makes me think I'd make a good mortician. You have to saw up the cavities and any bits of skin that may have torn. That's very important people! Don't skip that! Then you cover it with foil (until the last hour of cooking), stick it in the oven for the appropriate amount of time, and let someone else take care of it (which I believe involves getting some of the fat out so the beast doesn't drown. You can keep the fat afterwards as it's nice for cooking potatoes.)


After dinner we normally force our guests to sing carols. They sort of feel obliged to, because we've just fed them goose and foie gras. I'm not sure it's a great idea though, as some of us are very bad singers indeed, and without a piano or a guitar to keep us going, we tend to sing in different keys and keep different times!
So, no recording, but here's a couple of pics.






After that, it was mostly clearing up. Thank god I'd bought some paper plates so didn't have to wash up much. On boxing day we were up as early as usual and sat down to a relaxed breakfast, with leftover mince pies and a pomelo, which is now all gone.


So, you'll understand, I think, you'll forgive us, even, if I say that tonight, we'll be seeing in the new year in bed, preferably with our eyes closed, after a light family dinner and no fuss. But tomorrow we have some friends coming over. And we're doing duck. See you next year. Have a good one.

15/12/2010

sparkling tree





This is sister3's entry for tara's gallery, week 39, "sparkle"





I failed.
Twice.
Fisrst because I'm late this week, and Sandrine was king of angry...she just said I was "vilaine" wich is like "naughty", and that she was expecting a soon post...
2nd because I intended to make the same picture than Tara (click on week 39 link), and my picture is just an awfully ugly stuff

So here's my post for this week
It's a very nice christmas tree though ! And the kid's eyes are really sparkling when they look at it ! and under it !!!!

12/12/2010

I think we live in Narnia...

So Max and I took our usual Sunday walk through campus - except I dragged him on the sled. Here are some of the sights and creatures we met on the way.







So cold.
Funny how I always forget that.

11/12/2010

A lovely day in December.

What a wonderful morning! Max and I woke up early - he could tell by the luminosity that the first snow had come. Proper snow too. The ploughs came around 5.30, and by 6, everything was white again.
Bill and I didn't really fancy going outside, as we were both recovering from colds, so we wrapped up the kids warm, and sent them out to play in front of our building. They took the sleigh and a carrot, and off they went.

Now Charlotte is gone to her gym class, Max to his therapy. I have a pot of carrot soup simmering and some pastry resting for mince pies. Later Max and I will make biscuits to take to friends tonight.

Aside from that the Christmas spirit is well and truly up.
Sinatra has been crooning seasonal tunes for ten days now, our tree is decorated, as is the doll's house tree. Max is expecting Santa daily, asking to have Christmas stories read to him, and putting pictures of Snowmen up on our walls.



Also, the children are in a Christmas band, the Specs. (No, nothing to do with Max being on the spectrum, these are initials. Although I agree, it is fitting). Our friend the fantastic Erin, who organises the Christmas Carols night at our local is giving Julie Andrews a run for her money by having four children sing and play various instruments. Max is lead singer and percussionist for 'Jingle Bells', and he was actually able to rehearse with the other kids, wait for the right time to come in, sing in tune, and not speed up half way through. I'm impressed.

So now I'll just put my feet up and watch the Christmas Glee episode. Have a lovely December weekend everyone!

09/12/2010

Enchanted

For this week's writer's workshop at Mama Kat's, I chose prompt #4 "Enchanted".

Last Sunday, I took the munchkins to see Rapunzel. Great movie. It really felt like watching a good, smart romantic comedy. Lots of hilarious scenes, lovely songs -and not boring, loved it. Now of course the children want a cameleon, but other than that, I highly recommend it, even for grown-ups.

When I got back home, I wondered how come I'd enjoyed it so much, why it felt like magic and then it struck me. Not only did I believe in the love story, but I also knew I could have it. As in, it could happen to me. Not that I want my hair to grow like that nor meet a thief who fights with a horse, but I thought "hey, this could be me, falling in love, feeling that again".

I realized that each time I saw a movie, say, during the past five years, I was sad whenever there was a big love story. I just couldn't help thinking that it could happen, sure, but not to me. I had a good life, I did love my husband, but well, you know.

I'm a big girl, I know those are not true stories, but I also know that one should never give up, that love is right there, somewhere, that true love can happen, that things can be simple, easy. I'm not talking about ideal love for life, I'm talking about two people finding each other, soul-mates. I somehow always knew it was a possibility, but I was sad because I wasn't going to get it.

Now that I'm single again, I want that. Nothing less. Just not now. But someday, yeah, I'll meet my thief. I just hope he won't fight with horses.

Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left), or by email at the bottom of this page? And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever.

06/12/2010

WHITE




This is Sister3's entry for Tara's gallery, week 38
The theme is White






Anyone wants an hug ?

Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left)? And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever.


05/12/2010

Boxes

I went to a Montessori school today. The company I work for has a partnership with them and I was invited for a full tour.

When I got there, I was taken aback by all the children. I know, a school is supposed to be a place filled with children, but usually, when you enter a French school, it's as quiet as a cemetery and all the kids are in class, listening to the teacher.

The school system here makes our children go to school as early as 3 years old and it becomes mandatory at age 6. Since most parents cannot stop working for six years, the majority of French kids attend l'école maternelle and then go to l'école primaire the year they turn six. They are asked to stay there from 8:30am to 4:30pm and only get two breaks. Days are long and exhausting, and they also have homework the minute they start l'école primaire.

My kids, Alexandre and Roxane, go to school. Alex is in his 2nd year of primaire and Roxane just entered la maternelle. She's happy enough, she loves her teacher, has a BFF and a fiancé. Alex, on the other hand, has had troubles for a long time. It started during his first year, actually. He hated school and I had to tie him up to take him there. As in, force him in his stroller and put my hand on him while I was locking him up.

Now it's a little better. But basically, he's been bored to death since day one. Most teachers don't get him. He doesn't seem to think like others, doesn't count or understand the same way his friends do. He has buddies, but the schoolteacher told me recently, like they all did the previous years, that somehow, he didn't belong. That the classroom stuff were of no interest to him.

He needs to go to school, because he has a lot to learn, but that little boy thinks outside of the box, and school is the place where you must enter the box. I was always happy at school. Lazy as hell, but I liked my friends and the teachers. Those are not good enough reasons for him.

When I went to that school today, I saw kids who talked freely, who were doing different things, who looked happy. And they knew so much, you'd be amazed. I could picture Alex with them, I just knew he'd belong. I knew that was the place for him.

That school is not only far away from home, but it's also extremely expensive. I can't see how I could afford it for my kids. And I thought that was so unfair. Let this be my plan, I want my kids to have that, I thought. I was trying to figure out how I could make them have it when I thought maybe I ought to think outside of the box, too.

I think ALL children should have access to that. I think our educational system has serious flaws, even if it has its good sides, too. So I decided that instead of trying to make more money or marry a billionaire, I should try and do something to bring Maria Montessori's method into public schools.

Big plan, I know. A little hopeless. But it matters. I'll try. And maybe I'll also marry a billionaire and he can help me a little ;)

03/12/2010

Portrait of Autism #14

It's one of those days when the sun is shining through dirty window panes and the heating is on full blast everywhere. It makes me feel a little sick, and not nicely predisposed towards to the people around me. There's a lot of them today - parents, siblings, grandmothers, everyone has come out for therapy. All women today - which is unusual - and most of them covered - even more unusual.

There's a child screaming, somewhere. He was whimpering just before his class started but now he's howling - has done for fifteen minutes.

Opposite me there's a tiny boy in a pushchair. He's waiting for an older brother, but it looks as though he's on the spectrum too. He's shaking his head violently from side to side. His grandmother who encouraged him at first - maybe he's trying to say 'no'? -  is trying to stop him now, as he looks like he might hurt himself. God, that child must be hot! He's wearing woolly tights under warm trousers, and what looks like three layers of polyester on his back, plus a huge blanket for going outside that hasn't been moved off him properly. I want to get up and undress him and the only reason I don't is that I remember what it was like having strangers coming up to me in the streets, telling me my children weren't dressed warmly enough, pulling their trousers down so their ankles weren't exposed. How can something like being too hot be a cultural variable?

The mother is fussing with little plastic bags containing food and drink. I can see her think 'If I get  the right combination of drinks, and food into my boy he won't act out'. I know, I've been there.

On the other side of the room, there's another group of women sitting around the laptop, arguing over how to make it work. 'Is it plugged in?', one of them keeps asking. It turns out it's not. A teacher comes in and helps them put the plug in the hole. Now they need to decide who is going to watch their child on the webcam. Normally it's all pre-arranged, but today is chaotic.

And then, just like that, nearly everyone's gone. The only people left in the room are Charlotte and myself, and a woman and her daughter. The sun's shining a bit less too, and I'm beginning to feel more comfortable. I whip out my pad, and start to write about the weather, and the crowded waiting room. I feel this is going to be a bad-tempered post and I think it's just about okay, it will show that parenting an autistic child doesn't make you immune to pettiness and trivial peeves.

But as jot down the first paragraph, the woman at the laptop speaks to me. She's asking me if I'm French. I look at Charlotte for confirmation that I've heard right. The woman is covered, wearing a long coat as well as a headscarf - not a bright peasant outfit, but not a typical city covering either. Sort of quiet and cheerful at the same time, with a little grey fabric flower pinned on the breast of her coat. People don't normally ask me if I'm French. They assume I'm German, or American. They either speak to me in what they think is my native language, or ignore me completely. I'm a foreigner.

So I say yes. And I volunteer that my husband is English. She says something else: 'Why are you here?' I'm not sure I've understood so I turn to Charlotte again. I expect she wants to know why I'm Turkey, why I bring my son to a Turkish speaking therapy centre. It turns out she wants to know who my autistic child is, and what his diagnosis is. So I tell her. And I ask about her. She says her son is sixteen. Non-verbal. Does not communicate in anyway, just likes to sit by himself, playing electronic games. They've been coming here for four years now. Before that, they used to go to a place near their home, which is a village by the airport, a couple of hours from here. But that place wasn't any good, so now, they come here once a week. It takes them the whole day for a two hour session.

She asks me what I do with my son during the day. She asks if I work. If I've found someone to help look after him when he's not at school. She doesn't work, she has to stay at home with the boy, as he won't allow anyone else to look after him. Her husband is a mechanic for the local 'jendarm' the army run rural police. She has two other children, both daughters, both very bright. The youngest, who is here, is fascinated by Charlotte's ability to speak three languages. She's not shy about talking to us either, and, like her mother, she's understood that she needs to speak slowly, clearly, and use simple words when she addresses me.

The mother asks me what I think 'caused' the autism. I say I don't know. I hear it's partly genetic. She says: do you have any autism in your family? I say no, not that I know of. She says, me neither. We both shrug. She says: 'What can I do? I come here every week, but nothing changes, he never makes any progress.' I ask 'Is he happy?' She says 'No, except when he's by himself. Or with his sisters. He loves his sisters.' The little girl looks to Charlotte: 'Do you and your brother love each other too?' Charlotte says yes, emphatically. The two girls look in each other's eyes, and something passes between them.





Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left)? And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever.

02/12/2010

This is the face of Fu Manchu (it makes no sense at all)

I never got lyrics. When I was a teenager, my understanding of English was mostly better than my peers, just because I spent so much time in the UK. No, scrap that. I just picked it up because my brain thought I was English - crossed synapses or something.

Anyway - if I listened to the lyrics, I knew what they meant. I just couldn't hear them or remember them. My friends would sing entire songs they'd heard once or twice on the radio, faultlessly, with the right accent, intonations. I went through a phase, like most teenagers, of feeling pretentious about Pink Floyd lyrics. Now I can't listen to them too closely or I cringe... Sometimes I write down the lyrics of a song I like, but to this day I can't remember the lyrics of my favourite songs...

It's not like I think it doesn't matter: some lyrics are beautiful and add to the song. Some are crap and take away from it. One of my favourite tunes at the moment is Cee-Lo Green's 'Fuck You'. Not 'Forget You' cause that doesn't even fit. Since when does Pop music get bawdlerised? But the song is about a boy whose girlfriend left him for someone else and he's accusing her of being a gold-digger, of prefering the other guy because he's got more money. And he's 'like, Fuck you, and fuck her too', and we're, like, going along with it, cause the tune is so damn catchy, and the beat so arse-twitching. But the lyrics do bother me, a little, and they mean that my enjoyment of the song isn't as pure as it would otherwise be. Nothing a beer or two wouldn't fix - my principles tend to be soluble in small doses of alcohol- but you see what I mean.

Then there's the song of the same name by Lily Allen -  the kind of lyrics you want to shout along with, and the tune is good too. But the music just isn't up there with Cee Lo's. It's a nice tune, no more.


So I say, forget the lyrics, and revert to words that don't make sense and that you can forget. That's what the Beatles were to me for years, and I'm glad to see, now that I am familiar with them in their written form, that they don't actually make any sense most of the time. This is great. Just what I need.

But let's face it, the master of the nonsensical, non commital lyrics has to be Desmond Dekker with his Israelites and, my favourite, the Face of Fu Manchu. As he says with (so little!) eloquence: it makes no sense at all!





This was my entry for Josie's Writing Workshop. The prompt was 'Get Lyrical'.

01/12/2010

Friend or Foe?

For this week's Writer's Workshop at Mama Kat's, I chose prompt #1 "Have you ever had a fight with a long time girlfriend and never made up?". Of course I did. We girls have lots of friendships and they can be very exclusive during teenage years.

I met Sarah (not her real name, of course) when I was in High School. We didn't hang out together much, I was pretty popular and she wasn't: I was one of the cool kids, dating the pretty guy and always surrounded by friends. It was a relief after the disaster that middle school was. Anyway, we met again at University, where we both studied English, and became friends.

Friends, as in, I tell you everything, we're twins, we're always together. Cute. Except that we were 18 years old, not 14. Makes it less cute.

Even less cute when you know that she suffered from bulimia, that she tried to make me break up with my then soon-to-be husband (and now soon-to-be-ex-husband).

Not so cute when you know that she started to say nasty things about me to all my friends, with whom she had made friends with because she had none of her own.

Not cute at all and even scary when the long haired brunette she was turned up at my door one day with short blond hair, I swear, my exact shade.

Just creepy, in fact, when you know that she went to my hairdresser to make sure she got the exact same look.

I told her to go see someone, to get help. I called her mother, telling her that she needed to take care of her, that she was in bad shape, that I just couldn't do it any more. When my friend found out I had done this, we had this huge fight. She yelled and screamed and I kicked her out, telling her I didn't want to see her anymore unless she started seeing a shrink or something. My other friends kept seeing her for a while, and some even had me pegged as the "evil girl who won't help her friend." But they soon let her go when they realised she was repeating the same pattern with them.

I think of her, from time to time. I wonder how she's doing. I wonder if I was a bad friend. I wonder what else I could have done. And then I shrug and I go back to my life, thankful that I don't have to deal with Single White Female anymore.

Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left), or by email at the bottom of this page? And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever.

It's no longer too early for Christmas and my advent calendar's ready!

UPDATE: You can check out our 2011 calendar here

So a while back I wrote about my struggles to find an idea for an advent calendar. Then Maggie from Red Ted Art pointed me to her Christmas Crafts post, and there I found something I really liked. Gail from That Artist Woman had made a citiscape, with little boxes on a piece of cardboard, and with presents (or, rather more cunningly, bits of papers saying where the presents are hidden). So I thought it would be nice to try.

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