I dislike New Year's Eve. Always have. I don't like being told when to have fun. The noise at midnight. All of it. Also, I don't want to get anywhere near a car on this night, which I think of as the Super Bowl of alcoholism. In fact, my friends in AA call it "Amateur Night." Still, I wouldn't mind a midnight stroll down the Istiklal Caddesi, Istanbul's main pedestrian street seen here. Be safe. And if your vision looks like this after 12, call an Uber. See you next year.
December 30, 2016
When our friends Marco and Roberto were visiting from NYC not long ago, Dr. Blake and I tried to come up with some place very "New England" that these two restaurateurs might not find everyday in Manhattan. Woodman's! Our favorite fried seafood shack. We love it. They loved it. And tonight, in spite of the visit with our friends three months ago, Dr. B and I head back there for our annual December 30 tradition: a combo fisherman's platter. Same reliable fried goodness. Plus the peace and quiet of off-season without the summer crowds. (Today is my mother's birthday; she would have been 97, and she would have approved of our choice.) UPDATE: Because of much holiday dining both in and out this year, we may display our "signature flexibility" and postpone our annual Woodman's birthday meal to sometime next month when we really need a mid-winter treat.
December 28, 2016
The Bastille market, where Parisians were busy snapping up oysters and lobsters and more for their New Year's Eve parties. Actually, the best New Year's Eve I've ever spent was here in Paris, 11 years ago. This year, a quiet night at home, an Almodóvar movie, bed well before midnight. Am I getting old?
December 27, 2016
December 26, 2016
Dr. Blake and I became hopelessly lost in this beautiful city when we were searching for the central market. We were saved by this generous and kind woman who offered to lead us back to the Potemkin Steps ("Potemkin Steps" being the only bit of Ukrainian that we could speak.) On the way from the market to the steps, even she got lost and so enlisted the help of some convenient university students who were happy to help. And happy to practice their English with us two gringos. She got us to the steps, and the best we could come up with was "Merci, madame," which luckily crosses many language barriers. So kind all of them.
December 25, 2016
December 24, 2016
As I have for almost 50 years, I'm spending Christmas Eve with my friend Nick (whose Mexican nickname is, conveniently, Noche Buena.) I've always loved Christmas Eve much more than Christmas Day. Maybe yet another example of the wisdom behind my friend James's favorite saying: "Sometimes wanting is better than having." Though I don't think James is usually speaking about religious holidays on the many occasions that he says this.
December 23, 2016
December 22, 2016
December 21, 2016
December 20, 2016
That's "sausage" to you gringos. No translation needed for most at this Armenian church bazaar in my wonderful neighborhood. Soujuk (or sujuk or sucuk, etc.) is a dry, spicy sausage (usually beef but sometimes pork or lamb, plus enhancements like fenugreek, cumin, sumac, garlic, salt and red pepper) that's eaten everywhere from the Balkans to the Middle East. And in New England, too, if you know where to look.
December 19, 2016
A rich mix of ages, outfits, attitudes here outside one of the many mosque complexes in the City of the World's Desire. How we miss this favorite of cities. How we hope it's soon completely safe again to visit. Not that we're scaredy-cats, but even our Turkish friends who live there have advised us to, well, wait.
December 18, 2016
Gloucester's City Hall, built in 1870, holds pride of place in this rough and tumble fishing town. We can see it all the time from our perch above Gloucester Harbor, but the only time we've actually been inside was to file our "Intention to Marry" papers just days after the Supremes ruled correctly on marriage equality on June 26, 2013...and then to pick up our marriage license the following week. Both good occasions.
December 17, 2016
I don't know about you, but I find hidden treasures from the past when I go digging in my freezer. Recently, while trying to make room for a frozen Thanksgiving turkey gifted to Dr. Blake by his company, I blushed when I came across this package of cookies intended for my friend Marin (aka Cupcake) at Christmastime LAST YEAR. Good thing zaleti freeze well.
December 16, 2016
December 15, 2016
December 15 is my father's birthday. He would have been 100 today. Imagine. No cake, no problem. Here's a bit of cream kadayif (from a neighborhood Armenian church bazaar) to mark the occasion. He would have liked its exotic texture and sweetness.
December 14, 2016
What a treat to be able to eat outdoors on the patio of this restaurant in the upscale Istanbul neighborhood of Cihangir. I remember the weather being warm and mild, the food being mighty fine. And also the tiny orange kitten who appeared from time to time hoping for a bit of kebab. I was very protective of my meal, but, fortunately for the kitten, others were kinder.
December 13, 2016
I love my little neighborhood. Originally settled by Armenian, Italian and Greek families, it's now home to a rich roster of ethnicities while retaining some of its original character. Here, some new neighbors from Argentina. The young woman, Angelina, is a nanny for the two children (their father is in town for a few months to work on a film in nearby Boston.) The young boy speaks Spanish, Italian and some English. I was humbled. But, happily, I did get to practice my Spanish a bit. And my English.
December 12, 2016
December 11, 2016
In spite of all the preparation I put into planning travel, I'm always humbled by realizing that it's the beautiful accidental sites that remain in memory. Here, a sidewalk fountain fallen into beautiful disrepair in Morocco's capital, seen en route from downtown to some ancient ruins on the city's outskirts.
December 10, 2016
Pity this poor old pay telephone, or what remains of it after vandals have had their way, gutting and trashing it. Holdouts, Dr. Blake and I only purchased our first cellphones one year ago this month. Good thing we no longer have to rely on trying to find a pay phone.
December 9, 2016
December 8, 2016
December 7, 2016
December 6, 2016
December 5, 2016
I live in an Armenian neighborhood, so tabbouleh is no stranger to me. I've tried versions from all of my many local markets. I've made it myself. But none comes close to this tabbouleh, available once a year at the St. James Armenian Church bazaar just steps from my home. Just the right amount of parsley, the right balance of bulgur and lemon juice. Mmmm-mmm. I indulge freely, while at the same time bemoaning the fact that I can't freeze it to enjoy throughout the winter. Instead, this photo will have to do.
December 4, 2016
It is our custom and our delight to purchase something at a local market and then bring it back on board our Windstar cruise ship to enjoy at the next meal. This time, a lovely Moroccan bread purchased that morning at the sprawling market in Rabat. The vendor had just arrived, wheeling in a pushcart with a mountain of warm loaves. We bought a large one, and when I handed him the equivalent of 75 cents or so, he gave back a handful of coins as change. So cheap. So good.
December 3, 2016
December 2, 2016
I am one week into my traditional annual "eating plan" (none dare say diet) between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I avoid flour, sugar, refined carbs. Or at least I try to. Otherwise I will eat all of the hundreds of sweets that seem to materialize everywhere in this month of holiday prep. One dish that would be most welcome on my table this month is seen here at Korfez, a now-closed but happily remembered restaurant just a short boat trip up the Bosphorus from Istanbul proper: whole sea bass baked in salt, then filleted and served just so. Who needs cookies and caramel corn?
December 1, 2016
To make up for the loss of autumn's colorful leaves, let's begin December with this market shot from my first visit to the City of the World's Desire. If only travel to Turkey were as easy now as it was then. But even my friends who live in Istanbul warn about visiting their beautiful city under current circumstances. What a shame.