Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I made Christmas Dinner!

I am officially an adult now: I made Christmas dinner for people who are not related to me.

Yup. That is my barometer of what separates the girls from the women: buying an already roasted chicken and making a bunch of side dishes.


Seriously folks. I did make a Christmas dinner for my 3 site mates (Jane (newbie), Jessica (you know her - link), and Mike [link] AND, I invited my Az bestie, Könül and her ma, Büba.

It was pretty exciting to make a "traditional" Christmas dinner, especially because Azerbaijanis are always asking me what are American national dishes and I always come up with a blank. American national dishes? Does such a thing exist?

Well, after making a big feast, I realize we do have some traditional culinary delights going for us: Mac & Cheese, Parker House rolls, yams, cornbread & apple stuffing, roasted carrots, pumpkin pie, and of course, cookies!

Ah, it was so baraket.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Oh goodness, do I love me some meat.

That's right. I said it: meat.

I rarely get to eat meat. I mean, I rarely buy meat. It is expensive (when compared with all the other things I could buy with meat money) and to be honest, a little gross. You haven't really lived until you've been to an Azerbaijani meat bazar. Those are pretty strong words, but I'm standing by them - an Azerbaijani meat bazar is something to see.

Anyway, the point is that I rarely get to eat meat and I love meat. I'm a red meat fanatic. I tried once to be a vegetarian (I made it for a couple years), but gave up my socio-political stance for a medium-rare steak.

And of course, living in Alaska, I get a fair amount of free-ranging tundra meat, so...it could be worse.

I had a point...oh yeah, so, I rarely get to eat meat in Azerbaijan. Usually, I only eat red meat when I've been invited to someone's house, or when I invite myself over. In Azerbaijan, I often make the deal: if I bring the meat, will you teach me to make [insert Azerbaijani meal here]?

This time, I convinced Könül to teach me to make dushbere [link]. A delicious, garlicy, dumpling soup, I love this stuff. It was soooo goood.

It takes a bit of work (reserve at least 3 hours), but it is worth it. When I visit AK, I will totally make this at anybody's house...I mean, if you provide the ground sheep meat :)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Flu Symptoms?

For some reason, I have been craving mayonnaise [link]. I am not sure why. I think it may be a belated flu symptom, as for the last three days, I have been ridiculously nauseous.

Anyway, the point being, I've been craving mayonnaise, so this morning, I decided to do something about it. Along with my cup of applesauce (the only thing I've been able to eat this last week), I had a cupful of stolichni salad. So far, craving fed and I feel okay.

Stolichni Salad
2 medium potatoes
2 medium carrots
2 eggs
2 medium cucumbers (or pickles)
1 cup canned peas, drained
1 cup shredded chicken (obviously cooked)
2/3 to 1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot over medium heat, bring the potatoes, carrots and eggs to a boil. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain and peel everything. Dice potatoes, carrots, eggs and peeled cucumbers into really tiny cubes. Combine with peas, chicken, mayo, dill, and season to taste. Chill and serve with bread (or sans bread, it is up to you.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Things that make it feel like Christmas when you live in a secular-Muslim Country:

1. Elf [link]: Seriously, the best holiday movie ever!
2. Food Network's 12 Days of Cookies e-newsletter [link]
3. A Charlie Brown Christmas [link]
4. Nutcracker the Motion Picture as performed by the Pacific Northwest Ballet (you can find this amazing version on iTunes for $9.99!)
5. Homemade holiday iTunes playlists including Bing Crosby & David Bowie, The Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Mariah Carey, Eartha Kitt, Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Straight No Chaser, and Frank Sinatra
6. Christmas episodes of your favorite American t.v. shows (I'm talking about Community [link], Modern Family [link],and Glee [link])
7. Peace Corps Christmas parties; and, of course,
8. Holiday packages from friends and family back home.

This is my third Christmas away from home, with one more to go...but, it ain't so bad. My friend Lori (who's got about 6 inches on me) hung snowflakes in my apartment and a group of us have already made snicker-doodles (those were for you Tom, I remember they are your favorites :) ).

Monday, December 13, 2010

27 Months

So, for those of you who are counting, December 10 was my official COS (Close Of Service) date.

What does that mean?

Well, if I had not extended [link], December 10 would have been my last day in Peace Corps, my 27-months mark.

Instead, I am here for another 13 months.

Huh? That makes no sense (if you count a year as 12 months).

A one month vacation back in the US adds a total of 13 months that I must continue as a PCV before I'm cut loose...which means, my new COS date is sometime in January 2012.

Anyhoo...27 months...geez. A big part of me has no idea where the time went. I feel like I just got here (albeit, I can carry on a conversation in Azerbaijani now). A small part of me feels sort of ambivalent. All the Az7s (and now the Az8s) are jiving with their newest milestone (December 10 marked the one year anniversary of [link] Az7s and Az8s swore-in [link] as Volunteers on December 9th) and I feel well, I feel a bit left out. 27 months is a big milestone, but I don't get a good-bye party [link] or a "congratulations on your 2 years and 3 months of service" sticker.

Nope. I get a flu shot, a dental cleaning, and three days of flu-like symptoms. Definitely not awesome.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Friday, December 3, 2010

Can't Find that Perfect Gift?

Visit Talysh Socks to purchase a pair of deliciously warm and comfy handmade knitted socks from the Lankaran region of Azerbaijan.
The socks take about 2 weeks to ship and 100% of the profits go to local community projects.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fun Things You Can Do, Too

Twice a year, a very special tradition happens in a very beautiful town of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijanis, Georgians, Ingloids, Americans, you-name-it, travel to a beautiful church outside the city of Qax to make a pilgrimage to commemorate St. George's Day

Of course, earlier this year I was being dorky and decided not to be a joiner. Big mistake. I missed out on awesomeness. This time around, I wasn't gonna be a party-pooper and woke up especially early to make the 8 a.m. bus to Qax (about an hour and ten minute trek from Zaq).

Not only did I get to hang with some extra special Americans (all my PCV peps, holla!), but I also got to see several Az friends. I love "hey, what's up?" head nods. It makes me feel like I'm a local.