Monday, 14 April 2014

Sneaky vegetables (zucchini and carrots)

One of the huge advantages of living in Turkey is that there is spectacular produce available all year, and it gets even better when things start coming in to season. The grocery stores and supermarkets are overflowing with zucchini (kabak) right now, so I've been trying to work it in to various dishes. It's not my favourite vegetable, so generally it has to be "in disguise."

The vegetables in these two recipes are "sneaky" because you can't really taste them. Nobody should be under the impression that either of these recipes are healthy: one is shallow-fried and one is cake. But they are delicious and they do contain vegetables - in the case of the kabak mücveri, quite a lot of vegetables!

Variation on Kabak Mücveri (Zucchini fritters)
This is not a quick meal (including frying this took about 45 mins start to finish), but it's easy and doesn't occupy too much counter space so if one member of your household has an aversion to chopping lettuce due to the squeaky texture of lettuce leaves and therefore hates making salad, they can concentrate on the fritters while the other member of the household prepares salad. For example.

I added curry powder to these because I was looking for something like a cross between a latke and a veggie pakora. The traditional Turkish recipe calls for dill, crumbled beyaz peynir (Turkish all-purpose "white cheese"; similar to feta but made with cow's milk instead of sheep's milk), and a tiny bit of paprika. Oh, and also no carrots. So basically these are similar to mücveri only in that they have zucchini and are fried in sunflower oil.

The recipe could have served 4, especially when served with a salad, but we ate them all.

3 washed unpeeled zucchini, grated (approximately 3 cups of zucchini)
2 washed and peeled carrots, grated (approximately 2 cups of carrots)
1 grated medium-size onion
2 eggs
3 tbsp milk
1/4 cup less 2 tbsp flour - I like a looser batter so I used far less flour, but if you want them a little firmer, use more.
1 tbsp curry powder (I used a mix of tandoori masala and garam masala, but you could use whatever you want)
1tsp turmeric
1tsp dill
1tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place the grated zucchini in a colander, sprinkle with salt, and allow to drain for 5-10 minutes while you prep the rest of the ingredients. Squeeze out any excess liquid (which will be a terrifying shade of green) and then proceed to step 2.

2. Place all of your ingredients in a bowl and stir until the eggs and flour are evenly distributed throughout. It should look sort of like creamy coleslaw at this point.

3. In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, pour enough sunflower oil to shallow-fry; I had it at about 3mm. Working in batches, add enough of the batter to make pancakes of approximately 7-8cm diameter. Flip when the bottoms have become dark brown and slightly crispy (about 5 minutes) then cook on the other side for another 3-4 minutes. The outsides should be crispy and dark brown and the insides soft and golden.

4. Serve with yoghurt!

Next time I make these (and there will be a next time, because they were delicious), I am planning to use far less oil. I made them flat like latkes, but if you wanted a fluffier, more fritter-like texture you would probably need more oil to ensure that the sides get cooked properly. A word of advice: because of the turmeric, the cooking oil will turn bright yellow and will stain clothing.

Chocolate-carrot loaf (Çikolatalı havuçlu kek), adapted from The Complete Canadian Living Baking Book
My husband and I both love carrot cake - we had it for our wedding cake! - and a few years ago I found a recipe in Food and Drink magazine for a chocolate carrot cake with mocha frosting. It was delicious, but a little rich for every day, so here is a variation that is a little less rich and a lot less complicated. I am under no illusions as to the relative health benefits of carrot cake, has 2 cups of grated carrots in it, so that's something.

A note on pans: I made this in a 5x7 loaf pan, but it took forever to cook and the outside got a little crispier than I would have liked. I would suggest making this in a square or round cake pan, as the batter is very dense. I'm still figuring out the high-altitude baking thing, and when I first mixed the batter together it was very, very dry. I think this may be in part because I reduced the sugar - which is recommended when baking at higher altitudes because it reduces the amount of liquid - but that may have been a mistake. I beat an extra egg with approximately a quarter cup of milk and added it to loosen up the batter. However, this might be why it took so much longer to bake. I would give it a try first as written, with 2 rather than 3 eggs, and add the third egg at the end if you are finding that the batter is too dry (although I doubt it will be).

1 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 cup of cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
pinch cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 cup of sugar (I used less, but it was not very sweet. If you like a sweeter cake, and especially if you are baking at high altitudes, I would use the full cup)
1/2 cup of vegetable oil (I used sunflower, because that's what we had in the house)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups of carrots
1/2 cup of chopped bittersweet chocolate (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Line your pan of choice with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and soda, salt, and cinnamon until well blended.

3. In separate bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar until pale yellow and fluffy. Beat in the oil and vanilla extract.

4. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Add the carrots and chopped chocolate, if using, and stir until evenly distributed throughout.

5. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake for (if using a loaf pan) approximately 45 minutes or until the cake has started to pull away from the side of the pan and a tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. If you are using a cake pan, the cooking time will be reduced but the signs of done-ness still apply. I would start checking at 25 minutes or when it starts to smell like cake in the kitchen. When done, remove from the oven and cool in the pan on a rack.


Friday, 11 April 2014

Friday morsels: a selection of crumbs from around the web

Even though I was only away for one Friday, I missed two posts. I had thought I was going to be OK with the jet lag, but I had a job interview on Wednesday and I think I just tricked myself into sleeping properly for the first few nights. Now, my sleep schedule is all messed up and I'm trying to get it back in sync.

In the meantime, here is an extra-large compilation of Friday crumbs!

How very Amelie: the Atlantic reports on a discovery of over 400 photo booth portraits of the same man, spanning approximately 30 years, that showed up at an antiques show and which are now part of an exhibition.

Yes, writing languages for Game of Thrones is a real job - and it sounds super cool. I don't watch GoT but I do love constructed languages.

Short TED talk on mental illness by Ruby Wax. This could be triggering for some, as there is some frank and irreverent discussion of various types of mental illness including depression, anxiety, and PTSD, so just be mindful of that if you would like to watch. Plus, she makes fun of Paris Hilton, so if you feel strongly about her, please also bear that in mind.

These maps of Europe (including Turkey, the Caucasus, and parts of the Middle East and North Africa) show variations in language across the continent by looking at a number of words. They were originally posted on Reddit but this BI piece gives a bit of context to them. Check out the comments for some examples of language nerdery where people correct some errors or omissions in the map. I have my own to add: in Turkish, hıyar might mean cucumber but salatalık is much more common (and polite); the other term is mostly used as slang for idiot/moron. Here's the subreddit for many more etymology maps, if you are so inclined.

What would erotica look like if it were written by aliens?

A list of 26 sandwiches to eat for dessert. I love sandwiches.

Another Toast link: the evolution of food mascots.

Someone has designed a functional, tactile, and beautiful watch for people who are blind or visually impaired - and they are naming it after a British Paralympic medallist who lost his sight in Afghanistan.

Finally (and this is some familial promotion), my brother is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail this summer! You can follow him (and the development of his majestic "trail beard") at, or on Instagram @juniorvarsity.

Any exciting news from any of you over the past few weeks?

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Joe Fresh Mousse Blushes

In February, I saw a shot of the new Joe Fresh Mousse Blushes on beautygeeks and they immediately went on the must-swatch-and-possibly-buy list. I showed the two that I bought, Rose and Melon, in a quick group shot in my Toronto trip report. I hadn't had the chance to open them prior to leaving Canada, and then I read Beauty Reductionista's less-than-glowing review and was pre-emptively disappointed (although quite impressed that Liz's post is the top search result on Google for "Joe Fresh Mousse Blushes").

Well, I have some reservations (almost all packaging-related) but I have to say that overall I am really impressed with these and very happy with my purchase.

Rose on the left, Melon on the right. The blushes are packaged in little white pots, about the size of one of those coffee pods, with corresponding lids. Melon got a little turned around, so the product ended up all over the top of the pot. The quantity you get, especially for the price (I thought I paid $8 each, but the Internet is indicating that it was actually $6), is very generous. I need just the teeniest, tiniest bit to get some lovely colour.

The packaging is profoundly poorly thought-out. Melon started leaking a viscous, silicon-y liquid from under the safety seal (I think it had to do with the pressurization on the airplane, and it hasn't affected the texture). I cleaned it up but have decided to keep them in a little ziploc bag just in case. These would make so much more sense packaged in a squeeze tube: more hygienic, easier to carry around, and less likely to leak. Also it would make it easier to dispense in reasonable applications, rather than the giant globs that my finger picks up. Got it, Joe? Tubes, please!

Once again, Rose on the left, Melon on the right. Melon pulls very orange on me. The texture of these is incredibly silky and smooth. It's actually similar to, well, chocolate mousse. Not that I've ever dipped my finger in chocolate mousse and then put it on my cheeks, but it's how I imagine that would feel (although for the record I don't recommend you try eating these. I doubt they taste like real mousse).

For comparison, I found that the Becca beach tints are slightly harder and less "smooshy" than the Joe blushes. In the arm swatches, little pills of colour remained after the product was sheered out, but I didn't have that problem on my cheeks.

Ingredients: dimethicone, dimethicone crosspolymer, silica dimethyl silylate, nylon-12, polymethyl methacrylate, phenoxyethanol, caprylyl glycol, tocopherol acetate. May contain mica, titanium dioxide, iron oxides, red 30, yellow 5 lake, red 7 lake. 

I did find that these are incredibly pigmented, and here is where the ultra-soft texture worked for me: when I first applied them (particularly Rose), it gave me instant clown cheeks. The softness really helped me sheer them out to a much more flattering shade. 

Wear time is perfectly adequate for a cream product (I applied Rose, below, before going out to dinner and it's still visible about five hours later) but not stellar, and I imagine it would be even lower in hotter temperatures. 

In a combination of sun and indoor lighting, wearing Rose on my cheeks. Other products used: NARS TM in Groenland and Radiant Creamy Concealer in Vanilla, Benefit Watts Up!, Clinique Chubby Stick in Ample Amber and l'Oreal Infaillible eye shadow in Bronze Divine, MUFE mascara, Revlon lip butter in Lollipop. I'm beginning to get the sneaking suspicion that my tinted moisturizer is too dark. Also, I look super-sweaty, but I think it's because this is about 30 seconds after applying makeup, and it usually takes about 5 minutes for the TM to sink in and stop looking greasy. 

In direct sun, wearing the NARS TM, concealer, and MUFE mascara, plus Joe Fresh mousse blush in Melon and Tarte lip gloss in Achiote layered over Maybelline Colour Whisper in Orange Attitude. This picture really shows how dark the TM is. I should probably buy lighter shade, because this looks a bit silly. In my defence, I don't think it's quite as noticeable in real life.

So, overall: good product, piss-poor packaging. I'm glad I bought these and will happily continue to smear them on my face, but the presentation needs some work. 

Friday, 4 April 2014

Toronto trip acquisitions and report

I'm back from my grand North American adventure! It was wonderful to be back on that side of the pond - even though I love my life here in Ankara I miss a LOT of things about life in Canada, including but not limited to (duh) my family - and particularly in Toronto, which I love a little more each time I visit. We were there because the big conference in my husband's discipline was in Toronto this year, but we went a few days earlier and had some family time before he had to start working. I then continued to have family time, along with errands, some shopping, and a little bit of genealogical research at the Archives. My parents came from Ottawa for a whole week, so we got to spend a fair bit of time with them - a real treat!

We went to the AGO with my parents and had a lovely afternoon.

C. teases me for my obsession with the CN Tower and with Casa Loma. He's never seen Casa Loma so my insistence on describing things in the city relative to it is probably a little silly but - come on! An eccentric millionaire builds a freakin' castle in (what is now) the middle of the city, which might be haunted, and which has a famous white stone in the wall. What's not to like?

A building-inside-a-building - the Brookfield Centre. My Dad and I spent an entire afternoon exploring the PATH.
When I was in undergrad, I wrote a paper on the riot at Christie Pits and how it was covered in the press. My maternal grandfather grew up right near the park. It's not a particularly well-known event in Toronto history, but if you want to read more about it I highly recommend The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky, by Karen X. Tulchinsky.
I took a trip up to the Ontario Archives (located in the People's Republic of York approximately one gajillion miles from downtown), went to Don Mills Shopping Centre, wandered around the Eaton Centre many times (we were staying in an AirBnB condo in the Pantages), walked on Queen St. West, walked around Yorkville, went up and down Bloor between Christie and Bathurst, and saw friends and family members. I really, truly love Toronto. I'm sure that it can be a frustrating city to live in (and yeah, the traffic is a little nuts and the mayor has admitted to smoking crack) but it's such a wonderful place to visit. I got a little prickly with other conference-goers who refused to extoll the virtues of the city. 

I had a list of must-eat foods about a mile long, and had a lovely time wandering around the Loblaws at Church and Carleton (which I think is a little too nice to be a Loblaws). The three big cuisines that I miss the most in Turkey are Indian, Mexican, and Korean. Indian food can be approximated (you can buy Patak's curry paste, which may not be the most authentic but which is a reasonable facsimile) but the ingredients for Korean and Mexican cuisines are virtually impossible to find. So, there was a lot of eating and food-shopping on the agenda.
Brief restaurant run-down: Mexican food at Como en Casa on Yonge near Wellesley (which was totally fine, inoffensive, but a cute spot and convenient), Indian at Utsav in Yorkville (which was phenomenal), massive quantities of lox, latkes, and other delicious things at United Bakers Dairy Restaurant and Bathurst and Lawrence, Korean at the Owl of Minerva on Bloor near Christie (possibly even more delicious the second time), Thai at Linda's in Don Mills (which was quite delicious and a nice spot for lunch, although I'm convinced that there is some ingredient in Thai food that my tummy doesn't like...), Italian at Ferraro on Eglinton (total comfort food - their minestrone is like a warm and filling salad, and their pizzas are great), and a lovely lunch at Bannock! There was more, but those were the highlights. Plus some standard eggs/bacon/pancakes brunches.

I didn't take a photo of the food stuff, but it's mostly pantry staples: lots of spices, some maple syrup, SUPER FANCY vanilla extract that my uncle's company distributes, peanut butter, etc., plus some food requests for people. 

I also did some clothes shopping, although not much. I had left half my wardrobe in Canada, so I had to have space to bring it back with me AND it was like having new clothes all over again! So I got some staple tees, the basic shift Joe Fresh dress I buy every summer in a new print, and a few work-appropriate tops. I also tried to limit my beauty buying for both financial and space reasons, plus I had left some stuff there: body moisturizers and a few physical sunscreens that I hadn't had the chance to try out before leaving, plus some nail polish. Miraculously (and due to both my husband and I being experienced packers) only one thing spilled: a bottle of nail polish broke BUT it was in a sealed rubbermaid box inside a triple-wrapped plastic bag, so the only harm done was to a few neighbouring bottles.

It feels very good to finally be fully "moved" over to Turkey. I know it's just stuff, but I still felt "in-between" knowing that this pair of pants or that sweater was still taking up space inside my parents' house. Next time we move I would do it differently, and next time we will move entirely rather than in bits and pieces.

But, on to the photos!

The Cake products (a mini hand cream and two dry shampoos) were something that I had bought before leaving and then left in Canada. I used the aerosol dry shampoo while there and loved it. It smells like cookies!

Two more bottles of Neutrogena sunscreen, because I have searched high and low and have not found a facial sunscreen in Turkey for under $50 per bottle, which is just nuts. 

Big bottle of Shaveworks' The Cool Fix, which I use to combat the KP on my arms and legs as well as for ingrown hairs. It's a great product (my husband uses it too) so I'll do a full review shortly. This was the product that I had ordered from Sephora (see below).

Bottle of the l'Oreal micellar cleanser that everyone has raved about - it hasn't hit Turkey and frankly, I doubt it will. I prefer micellar cleansers over biphasic ones because I feel weird rubbing the biphasic ones all over my face. 

3x Simple Vital Vitamin night cream and 2x day cream. I had a really hard time finding these - are they being phased out? I got the day cream for $9 each on clearout at SDM and the night cream for $7 each at Winners. 

I went to the Vichy skin care consultation thing at the Eaton Centre. They were a bit brusque, but even though I got there early on a weekday morning they had been mobbed all week and were probably exhausted. I didn't learn a whole lot that I didn't already know (I have dry/dehydrated skin with very little sun damage) and I got a few samples (pictured), but I wasn't overwhelmed by the whole experience. A lot of the stuff that they recommended has ingredients that I try to avoid (particularly alcohol denat., which the SA in SDM tried to convince me is a fatty alcohol...?) and I am quite happy with my routine ATM. 

The three perfume samples were from a Sephora order that my parents brought with them. I love the Eau de Cartier Zeste de Soleil. The other Cartier is a bit too masculine for me, but I like it on principle. The Carven was me trying to use up my Sephora points, and I was surprised by how much I like it! It's floral with (to me) a bit of powder, and it smells old-ladyish in a great, glamourous way. Like I should be wearing it with a leopard-print caftan, turban, and marabou-trimmed mules - and frankly, on days that I don't go out I'm usually in a caftan and head wrap anyway, so I'm halfway there. 

Finally, the colour products!

When I was still super jet-lagged I went to the 24hr Rexall at University and Queen at about 7am, where I wandered around the aisles and asked the SA way more questions than he seemed prepared to answer. I bought the Maybelline Colour Elixir in Celestial Coral, a Rimmel Stay Blushed cheek tint in Apricot Glow, and the tiny Vaseline tub.

The little Buxom lipstick was a Sephora deluxe sample - it's really, really nice and a very flattering colour for me. The YSL Glossy Stain sample pack was also a Sephora sample. I haven't tried it yet. The Rosebud salve was an in-store Sephora purchase.

At Joe, I bought two mousse blushes and the champagne eye crayon. I probably should only have bought one but I have been so excited about these ever since I read beautygeeks post on Joe's Spring 2014 offerings.

Finally, I was looking forward to checking out The Face Shop, but I think I was in colour-product overload and only bought a BB cream and mascara, the former of which I later returned.

In retrospect, I should have bought one Joe blush and two Rimmel blushes and kept the BB cream (it was the Aqua Tinted BB in Light Beige) and the other product I bought and then returned at Sephora: a Becca eye tint in Romanticism. I had both the cheek and eye tints on my wishlist but the Rimmel and Joe blushes seemed like enough for one trip...and I'm really trying to watch my spending, so I took the eye tint back. I regret it now but all of this stuff is non-essential.  

Monday, 31 March 2014

Make Up For Ever Smoky Extravagant Mascara

I already had one sample size of Make Up For Ever's Smoky Extravagant Mascara sitting around, waiting to be opened, when I received the Sephora 2014 birthday gift, which contains a sample size of this an a mini lipstick. I hoped that I would like it, because I don't like buying mascara and, by extension, don't like throwing out perfectly good sample tubes.

Well, spoiler alert: I don't like this product at all. 

Right off the bat, one of my major issues with it is that the brush is a strange shape and makes it hard to apply without either getting mascara all around my eye or poking myself right in the eye. I don't know if that would be less of a problem with the full-size, because part of the issue is that the brush is just too big for the length of the want.

The brush is one of the bristle-y ones and is shaped like a Christmas tree. I find that mascara tends to collect on the end like whoa. 

Brush closeup! See, sort of like a Christmas tree, only instead of an angel/star/whatever, there's a big blob of mascara ready to mess up your face!

The first time I applied it the formula was very wet and extremely heavy. It clumped up and then dragged my eyelashes down until they were almost touching my eyeball. Now, I don't exactly have luscious lashes to begin with, so I am not totally on board with a product that makes them look less visible than normal. It has dried out a bit since then but I'm still not impressed.

In the photos above, I curled the eyelashes on the right (which is actually my left eye, which is extremely confusing to me - just me? OK) and not on the other. THEY ARE BARELY VISIBLE. (Also you can see how lopsided my face is.)

It's also neither smoky or extravagant. Really just a bit of a let-down. The other big issue I had was that this smudges like crazy. Black shadows under my eyes after about five hours of wear. One of the only good things I have to say is that removal was very easy.

So now, because I am cheap, I am going to get through two tubes of this - but I won't be happy about it. 

Have you tried this? Did it work for you? Do you want me to send you my second unopened sample tube?

Friday, 28 March 2014

Clinique Chubby Sticks (regular and intense version)

No Friday Crumbs this week as I am in the great city of Toronto!

I have two of the Clinique Chubby Sticks to show today: the regular formula in "Mega Melon" and the intense formula in "Mightiest Maraschino". Both of these were Sephora 100pt perks at one time or another. I have worn Mega Melon quite a few times, but have only tried Mightiest Maraschino around the house. 

I love tiny cute things! Minis are also great for me because there is no way I will ever get through my massive lip product collection, so having things around that I might actually use up is encouraging. 

I'm also a big fan of the chubby pencil format, so that's a plus. It makes application a breeze. 

Top is in full sun, bottom is in shade. Top: Mega Melon on left, Mightiest Maraschino on right. Bottom: reverse order. 

Mega Melon is a pinkish-orange with noticeable gold shimmer. On my lips it reads a little less orange than it does in the swatch above. It's fairly pigmented in that it cancels out my natural lip colour, but it's not an in-your-face shade. It's a great everyday shade for me. Wear time is just ok. I drink water so often that nothing really lasts, but this is basically gone after cup transfer and water consumption. It's neither hydrating nor drying. I use a base coat of lip balm with almost any lip product, but if I didn't apply that beforehand I would probably notice more flakes with this shade. 

Mightiest Maraschino is a red with a lot of pink in it, in a creme formula. It's quite a bright shade (true to the "intense" part of the name, I guess), but I love the way it looks with my skin tone. I can't speak to wear time as I have really only swatched it. Too many other red lippies to get through first. 

 On the lips! Mega Melon on top, Mightiest Maraschino on the bottom.

I'm very impressed with the formula, shades, and pigmentation on both of these. The wear time isn't great but that is never a deal-breaker for me; in fact I tend to prefer products that require frequent re-application because for me that usually means that they are less drying.

One major bonus for me is that these are unscented. I really like the Revlon chubby pencils but the peppermint scent gets a bit irritating after a while. These are easier for me to wear, and I find myself reaching for Mega Melon quite frequently!

Monday, 24 March 2014

Flormar pt. 3 - the redemption

I mentioned in previous posts that I was extremely impressed with the first Flormar polish I tried and then less so (although not disappointed given the price) with the second. 

The third in the series has managed to redeem the line for me completely. As with the others, it was 1.95 YTL for the bottle.

This is shade 402. I thought I was buying a pinky-coral when I first purchased it, but it turned out to be more of a bright, almost reddish orange. 

Application was a total breeze: it was almost opaque in one coat and the second was really just there to level it all out. It dried to a bright and glossy finish, although I did add top coat because I always do.

Wear time was better than the purple but not quite as good as the red. I got about three days out of it before the first chips started to appear (which is normal for me). 

Even though it didn't wear as long as the red, I'm happiest with this colour. It's a very bright and saturated shade and I'm looking forward to wearing it on my toes all summer!