Wednesday, January 29, 2014

flashes of pink in the blue

You could hear them before you ever caught sight of that pink.
If only I had a stellar lens to my little camera to catch those feathers!

Monday, January 20, 2014

an unexpected surprise

Saturday night, we drove to Enez, a sleepy seaside town located on the Turkish border with Greece. Our plan was to get a night's rest at any pansiyon that looked decent, and rise at the crack of dawn to explore the Meriç Delta for any sign of geese. Though this was meant to be a strictly birdwatching adventure, I was thrilled to discover that Enez (which I had never heard of before!) is home to a beautiful ruin of an ancient castle.

Enez was once the bustling Thracian port of Ainos, and being a strategic centre of trade, the city had at one time or another been Greek, Persian, Egyptian, Roman, Genoese, Byzantine, and Ottoman. Evidence of its multicultural past can still be found crumbling into the hill— broken carvings of marble crosses, fallen Corinthian capitals, and what may be evidence of Ottoman removal of painted representations of saints (this was a wild guess at the scratch marks on circular surfaces).

Enez Kalesi was just the kind of discovery I needed to reignite my sense of wonder about Turkey. It's easy to forget that the world just at our fingers and toes is so full of marvellous things, and Turkey is incredibly rich in history, culture, geography— even birds. Though with the continued destruction of natural habitats in the name of progress (as in many other places in the world), the future is looking a little bleak for our feathered friends. I was pleased however, by how little trash I saw littered at the site— this, and my recent trip to Troy was a relief. It makes me happy to see places taken care of; whether it's a historical site, a forest, or a city street.

This year, I really want to make an effort to see as much of Turkey as I can— just imagine what else is out there that isn't in our Lonely Planets?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

things you see in the middle of nowhere

Clouds of starlings weaved through the air like mythical beasts, and silvery grey cows patrolled the grasses with their mostly brown and black herd. I learned today that the Greek border is two hours and twenty minutes away from my front door— a fact that I must certainly take advantage of someday. I often found myself gazing at the hills on the horizon with excitement today, knowing that if I walked a little bit further, just past the river, I would be somewhere completely different. Bells instead of the azan, gyros instead of döner...

We found a few thousand swans (Mute, Tundra, and Whooper) in boisterous conversation, floating among the flooded fields— but alas, not a goose in sight. Not one! This delta was supposed to be full of geese at this time of year. Soon, the reason for their absence became clear: hunters. We couldn't drive a kilometre without passing a vehicle of men in camouflage with shotguns.

Those geese were probably in Greece, where the wetlands are protected.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

sometimes progress is slow

In a week I have managed to complete his left eye, and add some minor shading here and there. It's not much, but considering that he is a 61 x 92 cm (approximately 24" x 36") piece of pointillism and I have a full-time job, I think it's ok. I hope to finish most of his face this week, but before I do that, I'm off to the Greek border in search of some geese. The skies are the clearest cerulean, and it would be a shame to stay indoors on this pseudo-spring day. I'm not sure what I'll find out there, but hopefully I'll have some lovely landscape photos for you tomorrow.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


I'm not a fan of making resolutions, because somewhere as early as March I usually abandon them, letting the associated guilt consume me. I don't like feeling guilty. This year however, I'm going to give making resolutions a try, and hopefully achievable, by keeping things relatively simple:
  • More art. I have been neglecting my artwork for far too long, and this has been making me feel bad. You would not believe how many pieces are lying about my apartment in various states of incompletion. 
  • More sketching. I used to consider myself a 'compulsive sketcher' (this is claimed in my profile), but have barely produced anything of note in the past two years.
  • Revamp my website. I honestly cannot remember the last time I added anything new to it— this is naturally tied to the previous two resolutions.
  • More gym. Bodies do strange things in their thirties.
  • More reading. A resolution which never works, but at this point, even reading two books this year would put me ahead of previous years. I find this sad, as I used to be an avid reader. Can I blame this on the internet?
  • Improve my Portuguese. This cannot be difficult as I can barely complete a sentence— anything would be an improvement! I would really love to be able to hold a complete conversation with Pedro's parents. 
  • More blogging. 
  • More owls. I really, really want to learn more about owls.

So here's a start at least at tackling the first resolution: I've put several hours of 2014 into finishing my ink portrait of the Nepali man which I abandoned at some point last year. His moustache is now complete, and his nose is almost there. The problem with pointillism is that you work for hours and hours and see little progress, making it easy to get discouraged. Wish me luck!

I hope you all have a harika new year, and that 2014 is full of love, happiness and health. May you meet all of your resolutions!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

and speaking of breakfast

There are two things I think Americans do best: burgers and breakfast. Now my ideal breakfast was discovered on a trip to Vietnam (a little phở, fresh mangoes, dragonfruit, Vietnamese coffee), and I do love a little Van-style kahvaltı, but there's nothing like pancakes and maple syrup with bacon (or sausage), some eggs, home fries and buttery toast. It can easily slide into overkill, but it's so, so good! Plus, you can find variations on the big American breakfast in every region— California is all about adding a Mexican touch and greens, the South has their own thing with grits (which I have yet to experience), and New England has johnnycakes and lobsta.

At least once a week during the holidays, my mum raved about the breakfasts at Kitchen Cravings, so
on one of our last days in New Hampshire, my family, Pedro and I squeezed ourselves into the car and drove ever so gently on icy roads to the little café in Gilford. The menu offered your usual choices, but also gave you the option to create your own omelettes and Eggs Benedict— something I just could not resist. How could I improve upon a Benedict? It's a sumptuous construction of English muffin, thick bacon, and velvety poached eggs smothered in Hollandaise— what more could one want?

To honour the Californian in me I added avocados (scoff at this if you must, East Coasters), and replaced the bacon with a truly New England treat: lobster. Besides, where am I going to get lobster in Turkey? But really, look closer:

It was insanely good. Sweet, buttery, and tangy, I will fantasize about this dish for a long time. In the odd chance you visit the little town of Gilford, do plan on making a stop at Kitchen Cravings. I don't know about their lunches, but I imagine a place that does breakfast so right will do justice to lunch too.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

guilty, greasy pleasure

There is this thing I have to do whenever I'm back in New England, and it's rather gross but it sends me over the moon with nostalgia. When I was living in Providence and dragging my steel-toed boots to class at Rhode Island School of Design, food was not a priority— apart from a brief obsession with all manner of dumplings after deciding that the concept of little pillows of food was edible perfection. This epiphany hit me at three in the morning at the ceramic studio while I was terribly sleep deprived and had been desperately trying to centre a lump of clay on a wheel for longer than I will admit to. Oddly enough, that night while driving home and mentally constructing my dumpling diet, I witnessed the kidnapping of a Mr. Potato Head sculpture downtown— but that's another story.

Until I moved to Providence, I had never been to a Dunkin' Donuts and was unaware of the wonders of their breakfast sandwich. This was a most marvellous thing for a teenager on her own: a garlicky "everything" bagel with an unnaturally smooth egg and a greasy slab of sausage. It was this sandwich and copious amounts of coffee that powered me through my classes.

Now this, mind you, is not from Dunkin' Donuts, but a café called Winnipesaukee Baygulls in Moultonborough. Oh how it took me back...

Saturday, January 4, 2014

into the snow

Lately we've been braving temperatures of -20º Celsius in New Hampshire— and I know that's a warm day for my Canadian friends, but goodness! Counting ducks while your extremities loose feeling and your face hurts is an entirely different birding experience. Actually I quite enjoy it, but I really need to invest in some snow boots.

I love New England in the winter.