Sunday, 15 December 2013

Our winter Sunday in Turkey

We have been suffering an extremely cold spell for the last few days. People are saying it is the coldest December here for 30 years. Whether that is correct or not I have no idea, but as someone who does not do cold very well I have not been enjoying it. Therefore, it was no small measure of my enthusiasm for car boots that I wrapped up with several layers to look like Michelin man/person to attend the Çalış Children's Charity monthly car boot today.

Michelin man sets out for a day in the cold
So this morning I was up and about at 5.30 am. It is essential for me to get out of bed two hours prior to leaving the house in order for the metamorphosis from blobby into something akin to human life form to take place, and to sort out the animals before we leave. The ardent fan of car boots that I am, I have attended them  locally to our previous home in England whatever the weather. In inclement weather I have turned up to find only a couple of stands have actually turned up, so when I saw the ice on the ground this morning, I did wonder if it would be worth the effort of going down to Çalış. Even our pool had a layer of ice on the top! But clearly the Turks and ex pats are made of sterner stuff because if there were not quite as many as usual, there was close to the normal amount of stands present.

Stand holders had wrapped up and braved the cold
I was able to find the odd new bit of junk! I bought a few books - silly really when I have a kindle but I can't resist, a woolly hat - definitely an asset at the moment, a T-light holder for our courtyard garden, a couple of Turkish tiles - I'm collecting them to make the table top for the courtyard garden coffee table, a couple of cds and today's piece de resistance - a 'Yeni Raki' ice bucket complete with 'Yeni Raki' labelled tongs - ready for cold drinks in the summer - for the princely sum of 1 tl bargain!

t light for the courtyard garden and ..................
My 1tl bargain ready for summer
Being the practised car booter that I am, I do a quick tour round to glance for the unusual gems, then a second tour scrutinising every item such as books, clothes, cds etc. David & our mate Eddie who comes with us, leave me to it, they do one tour round and then retire to Eyna's Restaurant on the sea front to have a cup of coffee whilst awaiting my return. We have this down to a fine art now!

When I eventually saunter along to join them we order their excellent and good value English breakfasts and spend time talking to the street dogs and people watching until it is time for the 3 Cs Charity shop to open at ten, when I can bargain hunt again. I wonder if there is a word for somebody who is a compulsive second hand place frequenter?

I was able to buy some great books there. Mimar houses, with some wonderful design ideas, a beautiful book full of photographs of Istanbul - hope to go there soon, a guide to Cairo - well we might go there one day, an old fashioned cookery book - love them and a couple of novels that I have already read but are worthy of a second read and should be on the bookshelf.

Lovely, lovely books and my hat and cds from the car boot.
It is of course an absolute pleasure to visit Çalış at any time, and it is interesting to see how it changes with the seasons. It is certainly very different in the winter to the holiday season. In the summer it is a busy resort with lots of restaurants and  a buzz from the people enjoying their holiday. In the winter there are very few restaurants open, the promenade is empty, the paraphernalia of the holiday season is removed and the beach is natural and bare and virtually empty. You will only see the odd fisherman or maybe a lone walker or just the street dogs playing. But one thing is for sure it is always very beautiful.

Empty prom .............
......................... Natural beach. .............
..................... the fisherman ..................

........................... The lone walker ...................
.......................... and the street dogs .......................
......... I know a lot of people who would envy where we enjoyed our breakfast today
Today after Çalış we went on to the Sunday market at Çamköy in search of brussel sprouts for our Christmas dinner. This time last year I had already bought them and frozen them ready, because they tend to be quite expensive Christmas week. No brussels, they seem to be very late this year, but we did buy a new food bowl for Red because she has eaten the last one, a pair of fingerless gloves for me because I've lost the last ones, a funnel for jam making and some really thick fleecy material for me to make hot water bottle covers.

No brussel sprouts but here are the things that I did not go to buy!
We were entranced to see that one of the stands was selling bucket handles. We thought that spoke oceans about the difference between the throw away society that the western world has become and here where people conserve their belongings. We also stood and watched the knife sharpener working on a Turk's knife which brought the point home (excuse the pun) even more. I applaud that.

The knife sharpener busy at work
I love my old fashioned water bottles and no way would I ever want an electric blanket. Hot water bottles are very cheap to buy here, but if they come with a cover at all it is a flimsy, thin one that does not even cover it properly. As we all know from my efforts to make the cat beds my sewing is second rate, but it is slightly better than my knitting which I thought I may be reduced to attempting. So we will wait to see if I manage to make them and if they even fit if I do! Time will tell on that one, I will let you know!


Sunday, 8 December 2013

Congratulations to the 3C's you've staged another brilliant Christmas Fair

The members of the Çalış Children's Charity (3Cs) work tirelessly throughout the year raising funds from their charity shop, winter car boot sales and other fun events. All of the money they raise is given to enhance the lives of local, disadvantaged children and over the last few years they have raised a staggering amount of money which has made a real difference to so many lives.

Today was a real fun day for the children

Seven years ago they came up with the amazing idea of holding a Christmas Fair in Çalış and more importantly were brave enough to run with their idea. A sound decision because over the years it has proved to become a popular event. We went for the first time last year and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, so we were really looking forward to going again this year. 

I have never seen Çalış sea front as busy as it was today, and it was really nice to see how much the Türks have embraced the idea of this event, bringing their children to share in the days festivities and queueing up to see Noel Baba (Father Christmas).

So what makes it so special? 

The fabulous and varied trade stands. This year I heard that there was around 200 stands present. The range of items available was incredible. Christmas decorations, food stuffs that are not normally readily available here - sausages, sausage meat, bacon, ham, English type cheeses, Christmas cakes, mince pies, sausage rolls and other home made foods both Turkish and English, a mouth watering range of home made chutneys, relishes, jams, marmalades to list just some. Christmas cards, wrapping paper & labels, flowers. Craft stands with beautiful items, pictures, pashmina scarves, knitted items, Turkish Kilim rugs, even stands selling antiques. So we were able to buy some of our Christmas presents and some edible goodies too ready for Christmas. 

So here is a small selection of the vast range of goods on offer.

Beautifully decorated cup cakes

Christmas cakes in sizes for all

Yummy chutneys, pickles, jams and marmalades

plants and pretty plant containers

Turkish kilims and ornaments

Christmas essentials

Christmas stockings and bags

Unusual crafts

Beautiful fresh flowers

The atmosphere is fantastic. There is a feel good factor at the event and being so far away from the build up to Christmas that we are used to in the UK, it brings home to you that Christmas is in fact just around the corner. Although this is only our second year of attending the event, for us it marks the beginning of Christmas each year.

"Hello Mr Snowman" - so much fun for the children

It's a brilliant social event attended by so many people that just meandering along the stalls we bumped into so many of the lovely people who we have met since coming to live here and were able to pass the time of day before wandering on again.

It provides an opportunity for other local charities to fund raise for their causes.

Watching the children waiting patiently to see Father Christmas was an absolute joy and although he was half an hour late - I heard due to extreme weather whilst flying in on his sledge! - when he arrived he was soon a very busy man with a queue waiting to see him going way down the promenade.

Noel Baba's eagerly awaited arrival

We love the mulled wine! We tried it last year and were almost first in the queue for a cup today!

This is an extremely well organised event, which we thoroughly enjoyed and it is no surprise that people are now travelling from as far afield as Marmaris, Kaş, Kalkan, and Dalyan as well as locally to attend this well established Christmas fair.

The brass band played tiddly om pom pom

So well done to the 3Cs for organising another spectacularly enjoyable day. Credit to all their volunteers for having to set up yesterday in appalling weather conditions. None of us should underestimate the hard work that they put in for us to have such a lovely event to 

Linda Hill one of 3Cs hard working volunteers

Thank you Çalış Children's Charity, we hope you raised lots of money for the local children. I'm sure at the moment you are all exhausted and can't even contemplate your 8th Çalış Christmas fair, but there is a lot of us who appreciate what you do and are looking forward to next year, when you will instill the Christmas spirit into us all again. 

Now It's looking a lot like Christmas!!

Friday, 6 December 2013

A warmer house and lovely new beds for the cats

We use Facebook for one thing or another pretty well every day and of course as you are checking through, inevitably other stuff passes by, some of it complete and utter rubbish, some of it funny, some of it sad and some of it useful.

Recently I spotted a couple of items that I thought looked worth a try. The first was sticking bubble wrap on your glass to help insulate the house in the winter. Now this seemed a good idea, as we have endless windows and as I have mentioned before, although we have central heating a huge amount of draught comes in through the windows even though we have put draught excluders around all of them as well as the doors.

We happened to have some bubble wrap that we found by the bins one day (we are as bad as the Turks!), so David's project was to cut and stick this on the windows in the cold spots in the house. You were supposed to use a spray bottle to squirt water on the windows and then the bubble wrap was supposed to stick to them, to then apparently peel off with ease come the spring. Unfortunately ours didn't, but not to be foiled David stuck them up with double sided tape instead.

You don't even notice it above the door, but what a difference it has made
 We have done the bathrooms, the glass above the front door, the landing and the draughty end of the sitting room. With the exception of the sitting room the windows are not ones we look out of as they are so high, and in the sitting room we have windows on all four sides, so one side overlooking the back garden really doesn't matter. Well what a difference it has made, we can now go to the bathroom whenever we choose instead of hanging on and on because going through the hall to use the bathroom was like a visit to Siberia. You almost needed to put a coat on to go. Now we can wander around the house and it is warm everywhere.

There is also the added bonus that some of the tender plants we needed to bring indoors have a now safe place on the draught free landing window sill, which is about the only place safely out of reach of the dogs and cats. So there we have put a couple of avocados we have grown from seed and a couple of coleus plants that David found at the last car boot sale. So that proved to be a great success

Doing the landing windows has provided a safe corner for these tender plants
The second item I saw of interest was making cat beds out of old jumpers. Now that also seemed a good idea, except that I don't 'do' sewing. Actually as a child I was taught to sew and to knit, but don't really enjoy either task. Incredibly I am quite capable of making any number of things, but the problem is that I find it very difficult to do anything fiddly, I don't have the patience for it, my sight isn't good enough and my boredom threshold is incredibly low. But this seemed a worthy exercise to provide nice comfy beds for our cats, so I watched the video of how to do it and set forth.

Now the problem with having instructions in the form of a video is that you watch it once then that's it. Whereas if it's written instructions you take one step at a time. Anyway over confident in my long unused abilities I set off to make the first one.

I hand stitched a button up opening in the front of the jumper and across the neck, then as I remembered from the video, next I stitched from armpit to armpit. So far so good. Very proudly I bring my half made cat bed down to show David while we have a coffee break, and then realise that I have done something hideously wrong. There is no access to the sleeves to be able to fill them with the stuffing to make the surround of the bed!

So where have the sleeves gone????????.................
........... Ah there they are ....................

............. but this doesn't look quite right .......................
.............. Oh dear I think I have to undo it all and start again!!!!!!
We spend the next quarter of an hour turning it this way and that trying to get it right, ending up with the entire jumper in a knot which we can't undo, and at times laughing so much we were too weak to do anything.

I thought if I undid the neck I would be able to sort it. So out came all my beautiful hand stitches, but to no avail. It is still not right so I had to sit and unpick the entire thing and start from scratch. Apparently I should have begun with the jumper inside out, stitched the neck up and then turned it the right way round before sewing across the front in line with the arm holes.

Anyway I am nothing if not persistent, so I re-stitched the entire thing and eventually made a cat bed. I put it down and the true test of success - a cat was in it within ten minutes so it was worthwhile! The only problem with the first one was that it was a bit too small. Although Thomas was the first one in to try it out for size, it is Cingene that has claimed it and she is only little so it will be fine for her.

Thomas the intrepid one was first in ................
............ but Cingene has claimed it for keeps and it's just her size.
Spurred on by my eventual success, the second one I have made a bit bigger. The second one is for Inca and if you have read her story on our blog you will know that it will probably be spring before she will deign to get in it, but it is there ready for her when she does. I hope she does because that one was a lot harder as I had to put two patches on it first, before I could even start. This was because I had left it on the kitchen table for two minutes and Big Red stole it and it had two sizeable holes in by the time I realised she had got it!

Mark 2 - Had to have patches and is bigger ................
............ Inca investigating but it will probably be too hot to sit in it by the time she accepts it!
 So now I have one left to make for Thomas, but he will have to wait for a day or two as I can't bear the thought of doing another one at the moment.

I wouldn't be making these for re-sale and I certainly wouldn't earn a wage making them on piece work, but if they keep our cats warm and comfortable this winter then that's good enough for me.

Must go now I have to read Facebook and see what the next idea will be!

For those of you who would like to try making your own cat beds here is the link:-

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Making up for lost time in the kitchen

After the drama of my damaged finger and the pain it caused, meaning I couldn't do much other than sit around moaning for the last few days, It has recovered enough for me to start catch up.

My jobs have rather stacked up, so today I have been cooking all day. We have brought in all the green tomatoes as they are not going to ripen now and I have made green tomato chutney. A friend brought us a load of ? -  not quite sure, they may be mandarins or something similar - from the trees in his garden. So I have made two batches of marmalade, some curd and a syrup to go with the lemon yoghurt cake I have also made. Lemons are abundant here at the moment and very cheap so we bought some from the Fethiye Friday produce market and I have also made some lemon curd.

 Swept away with my cooking hat on I have made an apple cake and some flapjacks between waiting for marmalades to reach setting point and stirring curds. So we will be eating well for the next few days, but not too good for the waistline. Too bad! I always feel hungrier when its colder weather.

Orange curd, olives and lemon curd
We didn't have a good year for olives from our sole olive tree this year, so we purchased some from the market. They are really cheap at the moment. I found some really good black olives for 2.75 tl per kilo. So I have now finished preserving them for next year.

Last year was the first time I had ever tried to prepare olives, so I scoured the internet for advise and eventually settled for trying an Italian method. You smack them with a mallet (I use a wooden spoon, because I don't have a mallet) to split them. It's a really good stress busting exercise! Then they soak in water for three days, replacing the water for fresh at least twice a day. After three days, they are ready to preserve in a brine solution. One quart of water to a half cup of preserving salt. Place them in your jar with whatever other bits you fancy. I put a hefty slice of lemon in the bottom of the jar and then a couple of garlic cloves and a chilli pepper amongst them. Pour over your brine mix, then top with olive oil and put the top on the jar. They are supposed to be ready to eat in a month. Having said that last year we tried them after a month and they were disgusting, so I put them in the back of the cupboard and forgot about them. Then when I was making chutney earlier in the summer I rediscovered them and we tried one and they were fabulous. So we are going to stick to that method now. If it's not broken, don't fix it! I would however, be grateful if someone could tell us the Turkish way of preparing olives.

I have also made a litre of yoghurt in my fairly new yoghurt maker that I bought from Calis car boot. Actually it was a soft cheese maker when I got it home, but  it does a good job with incubating yoghurt too.

David has started phase two of the courtyard garden, starting to build the next raised bed,. This is on the side of the fountain and in the middle, so once that is built the paving can be taken across to the other side. You will notice we don't lack high tech equipment, marking out the new bed with a piece of cut out cardboard! If the weather remains the same we should be on target to finishing our courtyard garden next year, which would be brilliant, but we'll see how it goes. Something is bound to go wrong!

Well for all those of you who had a laugh at my expense about my afflicted finger, it's pay back time. As predicted I am losing the nail and it's flapping around at the moment just joined at the base - GROSS!

At least the pain has pretty much stopped now, and I can do most things again. Except the monster pile of ironing. It's not well enough for that yet.

Monday, 2 December 2013

I've had a poorly finger ......

For the past couple of weeks I have been utterly useless and incapable of doing much at all. I crushed the middle finger of my left hand between two very large and heavy boulders whilst working outside in the garden. I was looking through stone which we have outside our wall left from a previous project to see if any of it was suitable for my next idea. I lifted one up to see it's shape better and dropped it catching my finger between it and another stone.

First reaction - Look around to see if anyone noticed what I had done! Second reaction - blood is pouring out of my finger nail this could be bad! At first there was not much pain just shock and numbness. I headed for the house to wash it and assess the damage.

As I entered the house I say to David "I've crushed my finger".

"How have you done that?" is the reply.

Panic then turns me into a monster.  "IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW I DID IT, FOR F...S SAKE!"

"Maybe we should go to the hospital"


Anyway I cleaned it up wrapped loads of toilet roll around my finger because it wouldn't stop bleeding, put a gardening glove on and went back out to carry on with what I was doing.

Later as the shock and the numbness started to wear off, the pain began and has continued for a couple of weeks making me feel ill, unable to concentrate on anything or use my finger properly. The main problem being that on your finger, swelling has nowhere to go because of your nail so the pain is constant. Why is it that when you have an injured finger it is always the one that you catch on things, the dogs slam into, you hit on the wall etc, etc. It looks likely that I will be losing the entire fingernail. It only seems to be attached at the base and the whole nail is now a murky opaque creamy colour having already passed through red, black, purple and yellow.

Painful digits are not a new phenomenon for me. I have hurt my fingers before, mainly through not wearing gloves when I should. I hate wearing gloves and obviously still have not learnt my lesson on that one. I have also in the past broken my big toe three times. Once after one of my horses stood on it, once by managing to get my toe sucked up the bottom of a kirby hoover amongst the blades going round and on another occasion getting out of the bath.

But one thing is for sure hurting your digits is a seriously painful and debilitating thing to do, not to be recommended. I will try to be more careful after this and I will definitely wear gloves when handling stone in the future - if I remember!

Oh and a word of advise please don't anyone tell me any secrets, because I can tell you now that as soon as the threat of ripping out my nails is made I shall tell them everything they want to know - before they've even started!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

How do we find the Turkish winters?

Some years ago we were sitting in a restaurant on Çalış seafront and were appalled to hear a British lady sitting with friends say "God, I'll be glad when the tourists have gone home" We very quickly left the establishment. Personally speaking I love the buzz of the place when the holiday makers are here. At the end of the day the Brits who live here now presumably started off as holiday makers themselves once, as did we!

But we love the winter too, albeit very different. This year the autumn weather has been incredibly kind to us but there is no denying that we are finally heading into a Turkish winter. So what does that mean for us?

Although it can be quite warm during the day time until well into January, it gets dark and cold in the evenings very quickly and it is all the more noticeable when it has been a warm day. Up in Uzumlu it is colder than down on the seafront (around 5 degrees) which is a blessing and a curse in the summer and winter respectively.

Like most ex pats we live in a villa rather than a traditional Turkish house and they are very much built for summer use and it can be a devil of a job trying to keep warm in the winter. We have installed a wood burner which runs a central heating system, but we still have problems with draughts from the windows and doors. During the winter we burn a lot of wood and good hard wood is not cheap to buy, so it is quite an expensive affair.

Sun loungers have all been taken away for winter storage
But it is nice to have some decent days when we can still go out. We know people who have a beach BBQ on Christmas day. We remain reluctant to let go of the apron strings of our traditional Christmas at home, but may well try something different at Christmas in the future.

In January this year we went up to Cadianda for a picnic and had a great day, we virtually had the place to ourselves and with the bonus that there is no charge in the winter months. February and March brings the worst weather with lots of rain and we do have some spectacular storms at any time during the winter.

Enjoying a picnic at Cadianda on 15th January this year
But weather aside there are a lot of other changes here too, the most noticeable being the absence of holiday makers. Most people visit Turkey for the sunshine and that and the fact that other than a few days over Christmas and the New Year there are no direct flights from the UK into Dalaman airport means that the area is much quieter than during the holiday season.

A lot of the restaurants down at the coast shut up shop for the winter as do some of the shops. But Fethiye is a normal working town and other than along the harbour front and Paspatur which closes until spring, there really is not so much difference. In the village where we live pretty well everything remains the same all year round.

The restaurants that do stay open in the winter immediately drop their prices and many of them also do some incredibly good value set meals in an attempt to bump their trade. The market traders don't jump in with such ridiculous prices because they know that you probably live here. Some shops too are happier to negotiate prices because there are not so many buyers around which makes trading more competitive.

Eyna Restaurant Çalış preparing their specials board
A huge plus for me with my obsession of second hand stuff is that the Çalış car boots are held monthly from the autumn through to the spring. Their dates are a definite in my diary!

Oooh I love a rummage at the car boots
Pool and darts tournaments start between the hotels and bars. Those dates are definitely not in my diary, but a lot of people do enjoy them.

One of the down sides of winter is for the street cats and dogs. During the summer there are a lot of holidaymakers who feed them and they have numerous restaurants to hang around to get food. A lot of these places are closed during the winter and suddenly their food source goes dry. Also some of the resort shops get puppies at the start of the season because they think they attract trade, then when they close their shops they just abandon them leaving them to their own devices. Most areas have animal aid groups who set up winter feeding programmes but the cost of this is enormous and they are of course reliant on donations to pay for it and willing volunteers to visit set areas every day to feed these hungry animals.

Of course a visit to any of the local beaches is wonderful at this time of year they are quiet and tranquil and so beautiful, and taking walks is so peaceful. It seems so strange to see the resort beaches with no sun-loungers, sun bathers or swimmers around. Just the odd dog walker, fisherman or street dogs having a frolic.

Street dogs enjoying a frolic on the quieter beach
I'm a sun lover myself, so I can't wait for spring but I enjoy the winters here too. Its a beautiful place to live whatever the time of year summer or winter they are just different.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Perseverance pays off!

Usually when I am writing about our endeavours at home, it is all gloom and doom, with us feeling exhausted and fed up. The major project we started in May has gone on and on and on all through the summer. We have been working incredibly hard seven days a week for the last few weeks, because we have been very aware that our back was against the wall with the weather. But the weather has been incredibly kind to us with the sunshine continuing to the back end of November and we are more than pleased that we have finally, very nearly managed to finish the first half of a new courtyard type garden at the back of the house.

We began back in May of this year with a rough piece of garden with builders rubble, boulders and stone. It has taken us almost exactly 6 months of hard labour.

End of May - first low walls for raised beds in & digging tonnes of soil out of the way for the first shed
The ground when we began - complete with stones and boulders some of them a good foot down in the soil
All that needs to be done now, is to finish building the coffee table between the outdoor sofas, plant the new raised beds, put doors on the sheds we built and complete the paving - but it is too wet to do that after our recent storm. David is currently putting the door frames in, and I have taken the plants we have had in tubs all summer and replanted them in the new beds.I have no idea if they will survive the winter or not but they stand a better chance there than in the tubs. At least for now they look pretty and if they do survive then that will be a bonus.

As we are today with the paving and the coffee table to be finished
We will soon be going out and looking for some suitable plants. We want lots of climbers to give us privacy and to cover our rather tatty bamboo screen fence, and some really nice Mediterranean type plants to give us lots of vibrant colours. Unfortunately in Uzumlu there are a lot of plants that we can't grow, due to the frosts we have up here in the mountains. It is particular galling to see certain plants that we love growing quite happily down in Fethiye and Calis, but knowing that they just will not survive up here.

New raised beds awaiting some colourful shrubs and climbers
I love Bougainvillea but was told it would be very difficult to grow up here. Four years ago we tried to grow a purple one over our driveway arch, because we were told they were hardier than the other colours , but it didn't survive the winter. However, a Plumbago plant which we were also told would not survive the winter here has, so maybe as the garden becomes more enclosed we may be luckier with some plants. We also planted a baby lemon tree which is not supposed to grow here, but we managed to nurse it through last winter and this year it has grown on well. I think if we can get it through another winter it may just survive OK. Fingers crossed anyway.

In the UK we were very careful which plants we put together because of colour clashes. Here it doesn't seem to matter and we want some really vivid colours all mixed together because somehow in the sunshine it works. 

We like a hotch potch of bright colours ....................
............ and we've added the odd ornament .............
................... or two!
So many of you who read our blog have helped us more than you could ever know. When we have felt exhausted and low, your words of encouragement have spurred us on. When we despaired that it would ever be finished you convinced us that all the effort would be worthwhile. Thank you all for your kind words because we may well have abandoned ship without your support. 

It is always difficult when you have an idea in your head, but absolutely no experience in designing a garden from scratch. You do wonder if your ideas will work in reality. But we both love what we have done so far and wouldn't change a thing. But most important of all, the dog likes it and you can't receive a higher accolade than that!
Bebek gives our new outdoor sofa the seal of approval