Tag Archives: turkey

And to All a Happy Thanksgiving

It would seem churlish to write about anything other than Thanksgiving today.  (The other thing on my mind is the election and, believe me, that would be even more churlish.)

Problem is, everything’s already been said about Thanksgiving (including by me: see  Happy Any-Holiday, Wherever You Are).  As deeply as  I feel all those things, I don’t want to write in cliches.  So instead, I’ll post the Thanksgiving scene from DEADLY ADAGIO.  As with much fiction, this particular scene is based on a real-life experience.   It’s a different kind of Thanksgiving, but the basics are there: family, food, fellowship, gratitude.

Set-up: someone in the official American community in Dakar, Senegal, has been murdered.  In this scene, a couple of guys from Washington are in Senegal, investigating.  I’m leaving one name blank for those unfortunate souls who haven’t yet read the book and don’t know who’s been murdered.

  •              *               *              *

The two bland men with skinny ties who were seated on either side of Bruce were introduced as being “from Washington, to help with the investigation.”  Unsmiling,  but without the puffed-out chest Emily had expected, those guys somehow managed to look stern and submissive at the same time.  Maybe that was their intention.  And they didn’t realize it was 1998, or maybe they just hadn’t bought new ties since the ’80s.  These must be the guys from the FBI.

When they were seated, Bruce started off by asking her the routine questions she couldn’t believe he needed to bother with: name, age, marital status, address, profession.  She wanted to scream at him, “Come on, Bruce, this is me.  Emily!  We’re in the orchestra together.  You know Pete, too.  You know my name and my marital status and does my age really matter?”  She controlled herself, though, because she didn’t want to demean him in front of his Washington-guys.  Demeaning wasn’t nice and, besides, it wouldn’t be a good way to gain his trust so he’d divulge.

Bruce finally tiptoed into reality with questions about how long she and ______ had known each other, how well they knew each other, where they met, whether they knew each others’ families.  The Washington guys took notes on those skinny pads that she’d seen TV cops use.  Emily wondered if their note-taking was redundant, and they compared notes later, or specialized, with each one wring about one kind of thing.  She wanted to try to notice when their note-taking sped up and slowed down — maybe that would shed some light on the things they were particularly interested in.

When Bruce asked how they’d first met, she lost track of her status as interviewee and sank into the sweet nostalgia of remembering her friend.

It had been just before Thanksgiving.  Emily had gone to the Peace Corps office to offer to invite a couple of volunteers to her family’s celebration, knowing it was a particularly tough time for the young ones, especially, to be away from home.  It turned out there was a new Peace Corps Director, and when she made her offer to him, he said they’d be hosting all the volunteers.

“All the volunteers?  Do you have any idea what you’re in for?  Do you know how hungry those kids can be?”  She’d entertained volunteers in the past and knew first hand.  The brownie consumption alone was impressive.

Knowing the family would be in for a shock, Emily volunteered to help with the preparations, though not the meal itself, which she’d share with her own family.  She got in touch with ________ and the two women spent the next few days together, concerning themselves with how to approximate turkey with all the trimmings in West Africa.

“Fifty volunteers, so about 50 pounds of turkey.  How many turkeys is that, do you think?” asked _______.  “Anyway, I’m sure we can get them through the Commissary.”

“No, no, no, you’re thinking of people back home.  These kids are really hungry.  Fifty kids means at least 100 pounds of turkey, I’d say.”

“A hundred pounds of turkey?  How will we ever be able to cook all that?”

They found a bakery that would cook six big turkeys, leaving _______’s oven available for 100 or so baked potatoes — 50 sweet and 50 white.

Another logistical challenge was salad for fifty.  Here in West Africa, any locally-grown produce to be consumed raw and unpeeled had to be soaked in an iodine solution, then rinsed in (previously-boiled) water to combat the iodine taste.  The Peace Corps doctor and Embassy doctor were unanimous and adamant about this.  Many of the volunteers, young enough to consider themselves immortal, cut corners — and some paid the amoebic price — but ________ and Emily had shed their senses of immortality long before.  They gathered large buckets for lettuce-soaking and peeled the cucumbers and tomatoes so they wouldn’t require soaking.

________’s maid, Yacine, enlisted four family members to help.  When Emily and _______ tried to explain the origins of the Thanksgiving meal to Yacine and her helpers, they realized how difficult it was to explain something so culturally specific to someone from another culture.  They also realized how incomplete their knowledge was.  Between pictures, words, and pantomime, though, everyone wound up understanding a little and laughing a lot.

In the end, _______ and Emily became so close from preparing for the meal that their families had Thanksgiving together, with the 50 volunteers, of course. There were no leftovers except bones.

*          *          *

Carole Howard is the author of Deadly Adagio, a murder mystery with a musical undertone.



Filed under Travel, writing

Vanishing Architecture: Kula, Turkey — by Mickey Hoffman

The town of Kula has a population around 25,000 and is located south of Istanbul and SE of Izmir. Several years ago, I participated in an Earthwatch project which was designed to catalog traditional Turkish houses and make recommendations for preservation. The architects in charge had already made contacts in town, so we were able to get access to the buildings where we’d do the surveying.

First a little about Kula. I found it took some getting used to, as the saying goes. The town could, I guess, be described as rather laid back, and the residents I could see on my way into town that first night appeared quite conservative in appearance. Our hotel faced a busy street lined with interesting shops. Arriving late, I didn’t get to explore much that first night, but I did notice there seemed to be a mosque every few blocks, each festooned with loud speakers to broadcast the call to prayer.

As I was to learn, the broadcasts from the various minarets aren’t synchronized. One begins, then a few seconds later, the next, and then a second later, another, until all within earshot are going. My first morning in Kula, I was jolted awake. My ears were being assaulted with a cacophony of strange sounds bursting through my open windows. It took me a few seconds to remember where I was. Staggering to a window in quite a temper, I stared at the nearest minaret–bristling with its megaphones–and directed a few most uncomplimentary statements in its general direction. Feeling better for having spoken my mind, I happened to look down and to my horror, one story below was a flat roof on which a dozen or so men were playing a game of soccer. Two of the young men glanced up at me, but their faces were blank. Whoops! I quickly ducked back into my room and thought the issue was closed. Until two hours later.

I’d joined my fellow Earthwatch project members in the hotel dining hall for breakfast and had just finished eating when the door opened and in came the entire soccer team, still wearing their soccer shirts. I’d already told one of the women about my little gaff and when she saw the men arriving she began to laugh. In a panic, I pretended to have dropped something on the floor and ducked under the table until the men passed by. When their backs were turned, I quickly left the room. Fortunately, I never ran into them again. Needless to say, I felt quite embarrassed and ashamed of my cultural insensitivity.

For the next two weeks we surveyed, measured and sketched old houses. We walked the streets and talked to people in our spare time. Women often invited us into their homes and insisted on feeding us. Turkish food is absolutely wonderful. Few of the women spoke English and none of my companions spoke Turkish but we managed with sign language and travel dictionaries. When their children were around, some of them were able to translate.

On one of our walks around town we ran into a little parade. Turns out, the celebration was for a boy’s circumcision, which they perform here at age eight. The family immediately invited us to join the festivities. They rode the boy on a pony and the women showed me the room they had prepared for him to rest in after the procedure. He’d be treated like a prince for a few days.


Cir2Here are the women preparing for the party.


IMGAnd the room is ready for the boy.

Cir5Here are some photos and sketches of the town and of the homes we surveyed in Kula. In these traditional homes the second floor juts out over the street and the window are screened so women can look out without being seen by strangers.


KulaHouses2Here I am, about to go inside. If my posture looks wilted, blame the 100 degree F. temperature!


A sketch from inside and a few photos:

kula3The unfurnished rooms were cleared for our survey.


KulaHouses5This room would be used as a living area and for sleeping. The seating would be on moveable raised cushions along the wall. As you can see, there is a lot of beautiful carved wood in these old homes. Here’s an exterior and the view from the home’s upstairs window.


I ran into this man on the outskirts of town.

And no trip to Turkey would be complete without seeing a Turkish bath house. This one, regrettably, has been closed for years, but this is the way they used to look.

I have to confess the only thing I know about Turkish baths comes from Mark Twain’s account of a visit in his wonderful book,”Innocents Abroad.”Turkish Bathhouse Kula

This concludes your tour of Kula, Turkey. Please leave a comment if you enjoyed the trip.


Mickey is the author of two mystery novels, School of Lies and Deadly Traffic published by Second Wind, LLC. She is one of the contributing writers to an online serialized novel, Rubicon Ranch III: Secrets.


Filed under Art, life, Travel

A Glimpse at Istanbul by Mickey Hoffman

I wanted to visit Istanbul because I just had to see the Aya Sofya. Ever since I first learned of this incredible building in an art history class, I felt a pull toward it. And a few decades later, I managed to get there. Also known as the Hagia Sophia, this ancient structure is one of the marvels of the ancient world.

There are many other things to see in Istanbul, of course, but didn’t spend time in the usual tourist pursuits. For example, I only looked in at the huge bazaar from the outside entrance near a flower market. Carpet and tile stores didn’t interest me either. In fact, the only things I bought inTurkey were a fist sized, stuffed crow that I hunted down after seeing one hanging from the rear view mirror in a taxi and a beaded hanging symbol from a local soccer team. I did some great sketches and took some photos. I spent a lot of time inside the Aya Sofya, speaking to the walls.

In order to enter the Aya Sofya you first have to negotiate a gauntlet of carpet, leather and trinket vendors. All male. They reminded me of the merchants who used to try and pull you inside their stores on Maxwell Street in Chicago. They don’t take refusals easily. Perhaps because I was female and by myself, the interactions weren’t as pleasant as they might have been. I’ll never know. If I was polite they persisted and got into my personal space until I felt uncomfortable. If I got rude, the men’s tempers flared and scared me.  I would not recommend this walk to unaccompanied women of any age. More on that topic later.

The building, originally a church, dates from around 525 AD, or CE as they say now. The walls are about four feet thick and are heavily supported by adjacent smaller rooms and buttresses. This is the only way they knew to support the huge dome on top, which awed the citizens of the most advanced city in the western world. It still awes people today. The building has been a church, a mosque and now is a museum. It’s filled with gold leaf mosaics as well as gorgeous marble floors and many other adornments. The interior is just dark enough to be mysterious. Outside it’s salmon pink. Not a faint salmon, but a full-hearted orangey pink that’s shocking if you don’t expect it.

Aya Sofya6

The minarets were added when Aya Sofya became a mosque. To give a better sense of the enormity of this building here is another view.Aya Sofya 9

Aya Sofya5These side chambers support the roof.  And they’ve done this for centuries in spite of many large earthquakes. The building is brick and cement, and many much newer buildings made of these materials have collapsed from far less trauma. If you continue along the side you come to a rear courtyard which holds a beautiful covered fountain.


The inner roof right over the fountain looks like this:



Now let’s go  inside the Aya Sofya:

Aya Sofya 8

Aya Sofya 10

And this:

Aya Sofia

There’s a ramp that goes up to the balcony.  Not stairs, a ramp in a narrow and dark passage. It has bricked walls and a heavily cobbled floor. The balcony is decorated with Byzantine style mosaics. Here are two of them. The first is of Empress Theodora, who led an interesting life. She tried to expand the rights of women and had a lot of influence with her husband, Emperor Justinian. She is shown here in a saintlike pose which is rather amusing when you consider her early life as an “actress.” Enough said.

Aya Sofia3

Aya Sofya 9_0001

There is another ancient building in Istanbul which is called Little Aya Sofya. It was built by Constantine in 550. It’s a community mosque now. The day I went there only a few men were present, but even though only one man was praying inside, gaining entry wasn’t easy. Although the place is said to be open to the public, the caretaker seemed skeptical about my request to enter. He was completely unimpressed when I told him I’m an artist. Finally, he decided I could go in if I went right upstairs and didn’t make any noise. I took a only few photos and had just started to get my sketch pad out when the men decided my presence was too immodest and asked me to leave.

Little Aya Sofia 550 AD

If you’re wondering what that hanging thing is, it’s a light fixture. It hangs low over the floor. There will be a better view of one later in the Blue Mosque. This interior is much simpler and I like it better than the Blue Mosque. The simplicity is pleasing to the eye.

Little AYA2

The Topkapi palace is world famous, perhaps for its cache of jewels. I found it rather boring, but here are a few photos you might like. The courtyard shows you what traditional Turkish architecture is like.

Topkapi courtyard

Topkapi 4

Okay, okay. You want some bling?

Topkapi Jewels

The hand isn’t someone stealing the jewels, it’s there to show you the size of the emeralds.

Cleric davvening

In one of the museums they had a library which wasn’t open to the public. A Cleric was in there reading the Koran and singing. He sounded exactly like a Jewish cantor praying. Once again, I found it perplexing how two religions with so much in common can be in such interminable conflict.

The Blue Mosque is very famous and popular with tourists. This is the entrance. First a photo and then an etching. The day I stood there sketching, two women came and sat on the steps. They’d obviously been shopping but all their fine clothes were covered.

Blue Mosque1TheBlueMosque

A view of the entire mosque:

Blue Mosque3

Inside the Blue Mosque.

Blue Mosque2

Below the city lie the Roman cisterns. Wow. Creepy and amazing. Those Romans were so clever.


Having never been to Italy, I was most interested in seeing the Mosaic museum which exhibits art from the time of the Roman empire. Unfortunately the museum was closed. I ran into a young city police officer standing nearby who spoke fluent English. He said he could get me in and went to speak to the man in the ticket booth. I think he was the caretaker. He spoke no English so I’m not sure but he reluctantly agreed to let us in. I have only one photo to show you and this one isn’t very good.

Mosaic Museum

The reason for this is that once we got inside the deserted building, the policeman decided it would be more fun if he treated me like a date. A hot date. I slipped out of his grasp a few times and told him to stop and when he didn’t, I started to run. I ended up running full speed out of the building, zooming past the old ticket seller. I caught a mix of sadness and guilt in his eyes. He might have known what the policeman was like but didn’t know what to do about it. Anyway, I hadn’t expected this from a police officer, especially since I certainly hadn’t indicated in any way I wanted a romantic interlude. And I was wearing very loose loose clothes that covered me from wrist to chin to ankle in spite of the heat because I hadn’t wanted to stand out or offend anyone.

As much as I loved Istanbul, after this incident I was more than ready to leave the city. In my next blog we’ll visit Cappadocia in south central Turkey with a short side trip to Ankara.


Mickey is the author of two mystery novels, School of Lies and Deadly Traffic published by Second Wind, LLC. She is one of the contributing writers to an online serialized novel, Rubicon Ranch III: Secrets.


Filed under musings, photographs, Travel

A Day in Turkey with the Hittites by Mickey Hoffman

One of the most fascinating ancient cultures (and given a few lines in the Bible) is the Hittite culture. But many details about that civilization are unknown. This makes them all the more fascinating, I think.

Several Years back I had the good fortune to be taken around the Hittite ruins of Hatussas by a university student from Anakara. The ruins are a few hours from Ankara and situated looking over some rugged hills. The site is still being excavated and studied, but is thought to have been important in the metal trade around 2,000 BCE. They worshiped many gods, about 600 in total and built several cities, now all gone to ruin. What follows are photos I took at the Hatussas site.


The first area is a religious site about a mile from the main ruins. This sanctuary with carved rock walls is called Yazilikaya. You can see a sign telling visitors not to jump around.

You enter through a very narrow and dark gap.


From the outside, it doesn’t look like there’s any point in going in there and I said as much to the patient student who knew better.


These guys are the warm up act for the big guns. Their attendants, really.


There I am, standing in front of them.  That rope, uh, I guess it’s to keep you from touching? But the student told me to go ahead and have a feel. I realize now I shouldn’t have because those gods should be preserved. To my right is my favorite, the Thunder God. He has an eagle. Below is a close up. Sadly, he hasn’t weathered the last three thousand-plus years too well. A few hours later, the bus that was taking me back to Ankara became trapped in a scary dust storm. See, you can’t touch them!


Below are examples of Hittite script. Because it’s almost impossible for an untrained eye to make anything out of the relief carvings, there are two examples of the writing below.



If any of you have students or kids who complain about their writing assignments, show them this and ask them what they have to complain about  :)


There once was a huge temple here with many associated buildings. Above is a drawing of the gate and environs. Below is what’s left of the gate. There were lions…


And guardians.

TemplegateTwoBelow is the view looking over the surrounding area. These ruins are old storage rooms and contain huge pottery jars. You can see the sign asking people not to jump in them. *sigh*


A close up shot of these amazing vessels:


And now for a really mysterious place. A tunnel built to go under the city walls. Still intact after 4,000 years, it takes a bit of courage to walk through the 70 meter length. Just because it’s been standing that long doesn’t mean it won’t fall down “now”…



This stone stands in an area of fallen walls. An altar? I hope not to sacrifice maidens. Actually, I hope it’s wasn’t used to sacrifice anything.


I hope you enjoyed the tour. My next blog will be about another fascinating place in Turkey, Istanbul. Here’s a preview and an etching I did later using part of the photo.




Mickey Hoffman is author of two mystery novels, Deadly Traffic and School of Lies.  Please leave comments here!


Filed under Art, photographs, Travel

Have a Very Descriptive Thanksgiving by J J Dare

In honor of writers everywhere, this year’s Thanksgiving at my house is filled with adjectives. My holiday wish is for everyone to enjoy the sights and smells of Thanksgiving as much as I and my family do. So, here goes:

Tender roasted turkey

gobble, gobble

Sweet succulent ham

Toasted buttery rolls.


Baked cornbread dressing

Fluffy creamy potatoes

with lots of butter

Thick turkey gravy

Crisp sugared carrots

Wassup, doc?

Smoky green beans.

Delectable strawberry pie

sinfully rich

Spicy pumpkin custard

Chocolate chocolate chocolate

Pink Pepto, chalky Tums, and purple Prilosec

These are only a few items on the menu at my house. Now, you’ll have to excuse me as I hop off the internet and start cooking for tomorrow’s feast.

Here’s the full menu on Facebook. I’m crazy. Yeah, I know.


Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Eat, drink and take a nap.


Filed under writing

The War at Home


The turkey was not the only disaster at the table.


The peas had exploded when the microwave was set for twenty minutes instead of two. Somehow, the caramelized carrots had marbleized. The bread had a large sinkhole in the middle where it had imploded on itself.


The turkey was the crown jewel of disaster. Over baked and understuffed, the holiday bird was so dry, dust flew out of its arid carcass when it was sliced. All the gravy at the table was not enough to hydrate the arid bird.


The food on the table was disastrous, but the people surrounding it were worse. Tensions were high from the start. People who should not be in the same country together were within arm’s length of each other.


Mother Dee was close to tears. Paul and Jacob were arguing about everything, Jenny and Susan were trading snide remarks, and Mother Dee’s youngest, Beau, was sulking in the living room.


Poor Beau. He was as much an outcast now as an adult as when he was the youngest in the family. Always on the fringe, he was left out of everything and holiday gatherings were no different.


Joyous celebrations had always been stressful times, but as her children grew older, their differences became worse. As adults, their opinions clashed and, because they were family, their decency toward each other fell away. In the company of their siblings, Mother Dee’s children became monsters.


Paul should have held himself higher. He was a trial judge, for goodness sakes. He sat on a bench, day after day, listening impartially to strangers, yet, he could not give his brother Jacob the same consideration.


Jacob was worse, though. As a psychiatrist, he knew the inner working of emotions and the dynamics of human relationships. He knew why he and Paul argued, but he could not stop himself.


Mother Dee’s daughters, however, were on a different plane. Their cattiness was vicious. As close as they had been as little girls, they were on different worlds as adults. Jenny was a counselor and Susan was a nurse. Both were caregivers in their professions, but the care stopped at the door when they were together.


Mother Dee saw nothing of the family she had loved and nurtured long ago. Had her husband been alive, he would have tossed the strangers sitting at the table out into the snow. He would have been ashamed of the bickering family he had spawned.


She was at her wit’s end. She had been listening to the fighting and backbiting since she woke up. Just like when they were children, the fruits of her womb tried to drag her into their battles. She had mistakenly believed her referee days would be over when her children became adults.


She could not take it anymore. Slipping into the kitchen, she took the carving knife out of the soapy water in the sink and walked toward the dining room. Dripping water, she raised the knife high, plunged it into the middle of the table, walked through the living room and up the stairs to her bedroom.


She sat on the side of her bed and cried.


Her startled audience sat in stunned silence at her actions. Their mother was a diminutive woman with a sweet, understanding nature. She had never raised her voice other than to warn her children of snakes in the grass or nests of wasps. Violence was not her way.


Quietly, the group gathered the ruins of Thanksgiving and salvaged what they could. The girls made a run to the only grocery store open and managed to snag the last two rotisserie chickens, a small leg of lamb, the last box of stuffing, and the last can of peas and carrots.


Back at the house, the boys, Beau included, washed and dried the holiday china, and brought down the everyday plates their mother had kept from their childhood. Digging deeper into the cabinet, Paul found the plastic cups he remembered as a child, each with their names painted on them by a loving mother’s hand.


Mother Dee’s cupboard held a trove of foods the boys remembered from their childhood. Paul, Jacob, and Beau worked together to prepare macaroni and cheese, canned green beans with potatoes, and a few other memory foods.


By the time the girls came back with their scavenged food, the boys had set the table and put out the food they had prepared. The girls quickly warmed up the chicken and lamb, made the stuffing, and heated the peas and carrots.


Mother Dee walked downstairs into her silent house. Her children must have left after her uncharacteristic display. She felt ashamed that she had let their bickering get to her, but something inside her had snapped when she saw what her family had become.


Family should be family first, and family should never become strangers. Friends and acquaintances would come and go, but family was the mountain that never moved.


As she walked into the dining room, she was taken aback at the sight of her children quietly talking as they waited for her. Jacob came around to pull her chair out for her and Paul held her hand as he asked if she wanted him to lead a prayer of thanksgiving.


Beau brought her glass of tea from the kitchen, while Susan placed the first slice of meat on her plate and Jenny lit the candle she had set in the middle of the table.


Mother Dee burst into fresh tears, but they were tears of happiness. After so many years, her family had finally come together. She did not know if their feeling of togetherness would last when they left, but, for now, it was like their early days.


This disastrous Thanksgiving brought her children back to the family. For that, Mother Dee was thankful.


 J J Dare is the author of “False Positive,”
the first novel in the Joe Daniels’ trilogy


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