Monthly Archives: November 2013

Help Me Name My Kitten!

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Tomorrow I will be adopting this adorable little kitten from the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. The only problem is that Rob and I can’t come to an agreement on the perfect name. I really want a feminine name that captures her personality. She is a tortoiseshell cat, commonly referred to as a “tortie.” In addition to their unique markings, torties also have very unique personalities. They are usually fiercely independent, strong-willed, and incredibly feisty. These traits are affectionately referred to as tortitude!

Do you have any great feminine kitten name suggestions that really embody tortitude? Please share!

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Categories: General | Tags: , , , , | 14 Comments

The Delectable Food of Turkey

Before traveling to Turkey, I had always heard wonderful things about their cuisine. And now I can personally report that the food was terrific!!

Our very first night in Istanbul we strolled along the waterfront and stopped at a restaurant for dinner. Neither of us was incredibly hungry because, believe it or not, Turkish Airlines fed us really well throughout our flight! But we decided to stop anyway to have a drink and order some light fare. I ordered the stuffed grape leaves (yum!) and Rob ordered a seafood salad and seaweed salad. Between our appetizers and the bread they served us with a delicious olive tapenade, our meal was perfect! (And my introduction to Efes sparked the beginning of our 2 week friendship throughout all of Turkey!)

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After that first night we got our full appetites back and we dove right in to the traditional Turkish dishes. First stop….Kebabs! Kebabs are a staple in Turkey and can be found throughout the country (we ate them in practically every city we visited). Kebabs are made from tasty slices of seasoned meat (usually lamb) that are typically served on plates, skewered, or on sandwiches. They are delicious and affordable. Each kebab plate only cost about $5, maybe less.

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Kebab restaurant in Istanbul

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Kebabs from a restaurant near Ephesus

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Chicken kebabs in Antalya (by far the best we had!)

As delicious as the kebabs were, they weren’t exactly a new culinary experience since you can find them in many other countries. But gözleme was a new dish that I had never tried before, nor heard of. Gözleme is kind of like a Turkish quesadilla. It is made of hand-rolled dough and then filled with various toppings (meat, potatoes, vegetables, cheese, etc.), sealed with another layer of dough and then cooked on a griddle. I tried several varieties and they were all delicious. I had the opportunity to watch a woman preparing gözleme and she was quite a ham! She didn’t speak any English, but she was encouraging me to take her picture, to which I happily obliged.

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Another new dish we both enjoyed was pide. Pide is basically a Turkish pizza. The dough is generally molded into an oval shape and then topped with cheese, meat, and/or vegetables. It was really delicious! (Rob’s version doesn’t look quite as appetizing without the cheese, but he swears it was still good.)

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But my favorite meal every day was breakfast, hands down! Breakfast always consisted of fresh watermelon that I paired with feta cheese (A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Don’t knock it till you try it), fresh cucumber and tomato wedges, lots of olives, dried apricots and figs, and yogurt. I’m not quite sure how I didn’t manage to get a picture of this wonderful display of tasty goodness, but I am assuming that I was far too anxious to start eating it every morning to worry about taking pictures. Sorry.

And to satisfy anyone with a sweet tooth, Turkey has the most amazing desserts! One of my absolute favorites is Turkish baklava; not Greek baklava or Iraqi baklava or any other country’s version of baklava. It has to be Turkish baklava. If you’ve never had baklava before, it is a sweet pastry made of layers of filo dough, filled with chopped nuts, and sweetened with honey. I have always found Greek baklava to be far too sweet. But Turkish baklava has the perfect nut:honey ratio.

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Oh the glorious baklava!

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Categories: Destinations, Turkey | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Veteran’s Day Discounts

Mosul, Iraq 2004

Mosul, Iraq 2004

Every year, numerous businesses step up and show their support for our veterans and active duty service members by offering discounts and free meals on Veteran’s Day. It is a nice gesture and it is something that I try to take advantage of every year. Even though I am no longer in the military, it is an amazing feeling to know that there are people out there that still support and appreciate the time I served. To view a list of current promotions for Veteran’s Day this year, please check out this link. This list probably doesn’t cover all of the great offers available, but it should at least have an option for everyone regardless of where you reside.

Please share this information with as many people as possible. And don’t forget to thank a veteran this Veteran’s Day (Monday, November 11th).

Remember: If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a veteran!

Camp Freedom, Iraq 2004

Camp Freedom, Iraq 2004

Me & MWD Lucky (Best bomb dog ever!)

Me & MWD Lucky (Best bomb dog ever!)

Categories: Military | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Confused Capital?

Ankara is the capital of Turkey and it is the country’s second largest city. But where exactly is Ankara? Europe or Asia?

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Ankara is in Asia. But apparently nobody told that to the committee for the European Museum of the Year Award! Because somehow they selected the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations (in Ankara) as their award winner in 1997. There is probably an awesome museum in Prague [insert any other European city here] that had this prestigious (?) award slip through its hands and had to settle for runner up. Well done committee, well done!

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In addition to visiting the museum above, we also visited Anıtkabir. Anıtkabir is the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, as well as a museum dedicated to his achievements. Atatürk was the founder of the Republic of Turkey and he is considered a national hero. The museum was actually quite impressive, especially compared to the “award-winning” museum above. The museum was protected by members of the Turkish Honor Guard representing different branches of their military.

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And if anyone gets out of line, these guys mean business. Check out how they put Rob in a time out!

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Just kidding. Rob was on his best behavior.

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Unfortunately, our time in Ankara was very short and we didn’t really get an opportunity to explore the city. Most of our day was tied up visiting these two museums that were part of our guided tour. Given the opportunity, we would have preferred to roam around Ankara at our leisure and really get a feel for the city, but sadly we were at the will of our tour guide. However, we did get to experience a 5M Migros! What is a Migros, you ask? Migros is a grocery store and they classify the size of the store by the number of M’s in the name. They are all over Turkey and we saw Migros, MMigros, and even MMMigros. But it wasn’t until we got to Ankara that we saw our first MMMMMigros! We checked it out and it was basically a Turkish version of Super WalMart.

Categories: Destinations, Turkey | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Turkey Doesn’t Lead Animals Astray

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One of the things I loved most about Turkey, was how they treated the animals there. I am an animal lover at heart and not afraid to admit that I like animals more than I like most people (except you…you know who you are!) So I was truly touched when I saw how kind the Turks were to the abundant stray population. I’ve been to some countries where the people can be downright cruel to stray animals, thinking of them merely as pests that should be exterminated. But that was definitely not the case in Turkey!

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Turkey does not have animal shelters like we have in the United States. So in order to help control the stray population, they have a “neuter and release” program. Stray dogs are picked up, given immunizations and then spayed or neutered. Before being released, the dog’s ear is tagged to show the dog has been properly evaluated, treated, and neutered. It seems to be a very effective program because the stray dogs I saw were the happiest strays I have ever seen! They all seemed very well-fed and generally in good health. Most of them were just trying to find their place in the shade and none of them seemed skittish or fearful of people.

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There were also stray cats everywhere around the country. I’m not sure if they have the same “neuter and release” program for cats, but I didn’t see any cats with their ears tagged. However, they were just as happy and go-lucky as the dogs were. Both dogs and cats could be found hanging around shops and even restaurants. But rather than shop owners shooing them away, they all graciously put out food and fresh water. It was incredibly heart-warming to witness such genuine concern for all of these homeless animals.

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Remember: As Bob Barker always said, “Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.”

Categories: Destinations, Turkey | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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